Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mae West: Goin' to Asheville

The Asheville Film Society is featuring the memorable MAE WEST comedy "Goin' to Town" [1935] today — — on Tuesday, 17 April 2012, at 8:00 PM. This classic, directed by Alexander Hall, will be shown in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and it will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.
• • The tireless and extraordinary Xpress movie critic Ken "Cranky" Hanke has written this summary: By 1935, the Production Code had taken its toll on what Mae West could get away with, but "Goin' to Town" managed to more-or-less play by the rules and still emerge as a good Mae West picture. (Two of her later films would also pull off a similar feat.) Her Cleo Borden is certainly not more moral than her earlier characters — — she's openly mercenary and quite glad to inherit the estate of a cattle baron who signed it over to her in the 1935 version of a pre-nuptial agreement. What's mostly been toned down is the sexual innuendo, though some of it gets through. For instance, there's an exchange where Borden says that for a long time she was ashamed of the way she lived, and is then asked if she has reformed. She responds, "No. I got over bein' ashamed." How that got through the censors is anybody's guess. Most of the humor here, however, is grounded in her attempts to impress stuffy Paul Cavanagh with her refined and ladylike qualities — — things that are not in her nature. (Her Brooklyn-born commonness would become a major part of the next two films as well.) It all works in an agreeable fashion, and does offer the spectacle of Mae playing Delilah ("That's one lady barber who made good") in Camille Saint-Saëns' opera Samson and Delilah. The film also offers one of West's best put-downs (addressed to a cop no less), "I never walk when I can ride, and when I ride it won't be with you."
• • WHERE: The Carolina Asheville, 1640 Hendersonville Road, Asheville, NC 28803; T.(828) 274-9500.
• • Tell them you heard about it on the Mae West Blog.
• • Marjorie Gateson [17 January 1891 — 17 April 1977] • •
• • In "Goin' to Town" Mae West played Cleo Borden — — and Marjorie Gateson played Mrs. Crane Brittony.
• • Born in Brooklyn, New York (like Mae), Marjorie Gateson came into this world on 17 January 1891.
• • Miss Gateson made her film debut in 1931 after a career on the stage of more than two decades, playing secondary character roles — — usually as females of wealth and breeding, who were often haughty and aloof. She is perhaps best known for her roles as the society matron who attempts to thwart Mae West's plans for social climbing in the 1935 film "Goin' To Town" and for a kinder, gentler socialite who learns to box through the efforts of Harold Lloyd in "The Milky Way" [1934].
• • Transitioning into TV gigs as an occasional guest star, Marjorie Gateson eventually found a reliable paycheck via the soaps. She had a continuing role on "One Man's Family" and found fresh fandom at age 63 playing the matriarch Grace Harris Tyrell on the popular daytime soap opera "The Secret Storm" [1954 — 1968].
• • In her later years, the character actress suffered bouts of poor health and died of pneumonia on Sunday, 17 April 1977. She was 86.
• • On Thursday, 17 April 1924 • •
• • On Thursday, 17 April 1924 "Big Boy" was copyrighted by Ager, Yellen, & Bornstein, Inc., 1595 Broadway, New York City. By the time the Wolverines recorded this number a few months later (in October 1924), it had already become a runaway chart-topper.
• • It was during 1924 that Mae West attached herself to the subversive song "Big Boy," a run-away hit by the lyricist Jack Yellen [1892 — 1991] and the composer Milton Ager [1893 — 1979]. "Big Boy," with explicit lyrics about a darktown sheik who drives both pale and brown-skinned women wild in bed, was offered by Advanced Music Corp. on a song sheet disguised with artwork depicting a jaunty white male.
• • Born in Poland on 6 July 1892, Jack Selig Yellen was a year older than Mae. At five years old, little Jackie emigrated with his parents to the United States; he was raised in Buffalo, New York and started to write songs in high school.
• • Jack Yellen [6 July 1892 — 17 April 1991] is best remembered for his collaboration with composer Milton Ager. In 1924, Mae appeared on their song sheet for "Hula Lou"; so did Sophie Tucker and other singers. Jack Yellen also worked with the composers Harold Arlen and Sammy Fain. [Sammy Fain created a number of songs Mae performed while under contract for Paramount Pictures such as "He's a Bad Man" and "Now I'm a Lady," part of the "Goin' to Town" soundtrack.].
• • Jack Yellen was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972 and the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 1996. After enjoying a full life with many career high points, he died in Concord, New York, aged 98, during the month of April — — on 17 April 1991.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "I never saw so many poles in my life! I wondered how Hollywood men could stand them. But everyone said I had to get thin. I figured they knew this racket and I didn’t, so I went on one of them Hollywood diets. . . . It was pretty bad, but I’d been through a lot for art’s sake so taking off twenty pounds or more was just one more piece of the routine. I got down to 103 pounds. I stood in front of the mirror to study the results. I didn’t like it. I didn’t look — — well, you know — — voluptuous. And that isn’t all. I didn’t even look healthy. And man or woman, you got to look healthy to look right. Half-starved women can’t have no life in them any more than a half-starved dog." . . .
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article in The Chicago Tribune in April 1945 mentioned Mae West.
• • The Chicago Tribune wrote: "Mae West has Chicago's Hotel Stevens in a dither over her widely-broadcast invitations to friends to come up for a spiritualistic seance some time." . . .
• • Source: News Item: for The Chicago Tribune; published on 13 April 1945
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started seven years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2273rd blog post. Unlike many blogs, which draw upon reprinted content from a newspaper or a magazine and/ or summaries, links, or photos, the mainstay of this blog is its fresh material focused on the life and career of Mae West, herself an American original.
• • Come up and see Mae every day online: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • with Paul Cavanagh in 1935 • •
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