Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mae West: Bogart Beat Helen

How many performers could say they were arrested with MAE WEST?
• • It was on 9 February 1927 that Mae — — along with the cast of "Sex," and the cast of "The Captive," and the cast of "The Virgin Man" — — was cuffed and dragged in to Night Court.  
• • Helen Menken [12 December 1901 — 27 March 1966] • •
• • Native New Yorker Helen Menken was born Helen Meinken on Thursday, 12 December 1901 to a German-French father, Frederick Meinken, and an Irish-born mother, Mary Madden. When she was arrested she was still a newly-wed, having said "I do" to Humphrey Bogart in May 1926, when discussions were starting about an English-language version of a French sensation called "The Captive" (a controversial new drama about a lesbian who leaves her husband for a woman).
• • Perhaps the prestige that "The Captive" enjoyed in Paris persuaded Helen Menken to accept the leading role. "The Captive" was produced at the Empire Theatre, opening on 29 September 1926.
• • December 1926 • •
• • During December 1926 both "The Captive" and "Sex" were doing brisk business at the box office. While Mae plied the publicity angles to attract men to her show, Helen Menken reached out to women theatre-goers.
• • Where It Happened • •
• • Mr. and Mrs. Meinken were residents of the Gramercy Park Hotel during the mid-1920s, when the building's postal address was 52 Gramercy Park Place, New York, NY.   On 20 May 1926, theatre actor Humphrey Bogart [25 December 1899 — 14 January 1957] wed the slim, fine-boned Broadway star in her parents' apartment, noted The New York Times.  The groom was 26, the bride 24. 
• • Where Bogart Beat His Bride • •
• • Helen's apartment was nearby at 43 East 25th Street. She kept this address before, during, and after her brief marriage.  Bogart, a heavy drinker, was abusive when drunk. After 18 months of his brutish behavior, Helen divorced Humphrey on 18 November 1927.
• • Tallulah Bankhead [31 January 1902 — 12 December 1968] • •
• • Tallulah Bankhead was an American actress, talk-show host and bonne vivante. At an event during the 1950s, she posed with Mae West and they mugged for the cameras.
• • Tallulah Bankhead died in New York City in December of double pneumonia arising from influenza, complicated by emphysema, on Thursday, 12 December 1968 and is buried in Saint Paul's Churchyard, Maryland. She was 66.
• • Mae West on NBC, Sunday, 12 December 1937 • •
• • Perhaps no other radio segment of The Chase and Sanborn Hour has sparked more commentary than the Sunday, December 12th, 1937 broadcast starring Mae West, the 44-year-old movie queen, who usually hid the fact that she was unable to read a script without eyeglasses.
• • The popular star of Paramount Pictures rarely appeared on radio. When she did, the sole purpose was to promote one of her films. West had guest-starred on The Shell Chateau with Al Jolson in 1936 and also Louella Parsons’ blackmailing program Hollywood Hotel on 26 April 1935, with featured guest Paul Cavanagh in an adaptation of her (then most current) screen gem: "Goin’ to Town."
• • When the producers of The Chase and Sanborn Hour offered the sex goddess the opportunity to appear on the weekly show — — then currently the highest-rated program of the year — — she accepted the invitation to boost the awareness of her latest film, "Every Day's a Holiday."
• • Mae West often wrote her own scripts and even produced her own plays, so she offered NBC the option of a sneak peek at some scenes from her new screen comedy set during the 1890s in New York City.
• • Interesting, but rarely commented on, is the fact that Mae wore a spectacular black gown framed by expensive furs and jewelry when she showed up at NBC's Hollywood headquarters on Sunday, 12 December 1937 — — an eyeful that could only be appreciated by the live studio audience.
• • As if to be extra-cautious, Mae donned eyeglasses and also wore a fancy lornette on a chain around her neck, not unlike the extra-careful gentleman who wears suspenders and a belt. Then she stepped up to the microphone and threw caution to the fates.
• • Writer Arch Obler on Mae's nearsightedness • •
• • "Now one thing the powers-that-be forgot," recalled Arch Oboler, "that in those days, unlike today, there were three things that an actress could not do. One was to have a child out of wedlock. Two, she could not swear. And three, she could not wear glasses. It was thought terrible for an actress to be seen in spectacles. Well, Miss Mae West, having all the usual good sense of all of us, did not wear her glasses during the rehearsals so she, being very nearsighted never saw my script. She bluffed her way through. It wasn’t until air time that she walked on stage waving these glasses, put them on . . . and for the first time saw the script. The result was a disaster. What she did to ‘Adam and Eve’ the Arabs had never done so miserably."
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Lady Godiva was the greatest gambler. She put everything she had on a horse."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article about 12 December 1937 on radio mentioned Mae West.
• • Jeff Kallman wrote: The irony of a ventriloquist becoming a radio star receives perhaps its most notorious counter-irony tonight, when a comedy sketch written by an up-and-coming horror and suspense master triggers a furor that comes close enough to bringing the tentacles of government into a choke-hold around the neck of NBC.
• • Jeff Kallman wrote: Arch Oboler, making his name already as the brains that succeed and nearly transcend Wyllis Cooper in the latter’s creation, Lights Out, writes an otherwise silly sketch parodying the Garden of Eden, tailoring the portrayal of Eve specifically to stage and screen siren Mae West, with original host Don Ameche as Adam. ...
• • Source: Article: "Snake Drive: Old-time radio listening, 12 December" written by Jeff Kallman for The Examiner; published on Saturday, 12 December 2009 
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started eight years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2513th 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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• • Mae West Broadway colleagues. 1926
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  Mae West.

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