Friday, February 01, 2013

Mae West: James P. Johnson

MAE WEST loved to work with black musicians and to sing their music. With accompaniment by Sy Oliver's Orchestra, Mae recorded singles such as "I’m in the Mood For Love," "If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight," "They Call Me Sister Honky Tonk," "A Guy What Takes His Time," and "My Daddy Rocks Me."
• • "If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight" was a collaborative piece. The music was written by James Price Johnson and Henry Creamer was the lyricist. The song was published in 1926 and first recorded a year later by Clarence Williams' Blue Five with vocalist Eva Taylor.
• • James P. Johnson [1 February 1894 — 17 November 1955] • •
• • Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey on Thursday, 1 February 1894, James Price Johnson became a pianist and a composer. One of the most accomplished black artists of his era, Johnson composed many hit tunes that were popularized in musical theatre, in night clubs, and on the dance floor — — like "The "Charleston" (which made its debut in his Broadway show "Runnin' Wild" [1923], though he may have written it earlier). Certainly, "The Charleston" became the run-away sensation of the "Roaring Twenties" — — especially since a woman had to wear a short dress in order to dance it properly. Johnson was a solid-gold hit machine who also wrote "If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)," "Don't Cry, Baby," "You've Got to Be Modernistic," "Keep off the Grass," "Old Fashioned Love," "A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid," "Carolina Shout," and "Snowy Morning Blues."
• • Multi-talented and versatile, Johnson wrote for the ballet, he composed waltzes, light opera, and symphonic pieces. In 1926, his success as a popular composer qualified him as a member of ASCAP.
• • James P. Johnson suffered a severe, paralyzing stroke in 1951. He died in Jamaica, New York on 17 November 1955. He was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Maspeth, Queens. He was 61.
• • On Tuesday, 1 February 1927 in Connecticut • •
• • On Tuesday, February 1st at 5 AM, Mae West was arrested along with her sister and the director Edward Elsner in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
• • The tabloid New York World covered the story on the front page on 1 February 1927 as did the New York Morning Telegraph, offering their voyeuristic readers every sin-soaked scrap about the scandal. The N.Y. Times also reported on this on February 1st but in less lurid detail.
• • On Thursday, 1 February 1934 • •
• • Brisbane, Queensland's daily The Courier-Mail wrote about Mae West (on page 7) on   Thursday, 1 February 1934. They spoke about the value of a well curved figure.
• • "Mae West Sets Style" • •
• • Mae West, the Broadway star, who made a picture called "She Done Him Wrong," is claimed to have caused a change in feminine fashions. Miss West is a well set up, curved blonde. Before she achieved success in her first starring picture, women had to be slim, or they were out of fashion. But Mae West has changed that. ...
• • On Tuesday, 1 February 1949 • •
• • The headline assured her fans that "Mae West Back in Town as 'Diamond Lil.'"
• • The New York Times wrote: Gallantly supported by four or five handsome, muscular leading men, Mae West has brought "Diamond Lil" back to New York, where it began its renowned career twenty-one years ago. She wriggled through it at the Coronet on Saturday evening, attired in some of the gaudiest finery of the century — — the femme fatale of the Bowery, bowling her leading men over one by one with her classical impersonation of a story-book strumpet.
• • When Miss West restored her study of society to America last November, a bus-load of the Broadway nightwatch rolled out to Montclair to pay their respects to her artistry. It must be confessed that "Diamond Lil" is a tough play to see twice in one season. Any fairly observant theatre-goer can penetrate its subtleties with a single visit. It does not take long to understand what Miss West has in mind.
• • But she is a fabulous performer and her saloon singer is an incredible creation--a triumph of nostalgic vulgarity. She is always in motion. The snaky walk, the torso wriggle, the stealthy eyes, the frozen smile, the flat, condescending voice, the queenly gestures--these are studies in slow motion, and they have to be seen to be believed. Lazy, confident of her charms, Diamond Lil does not move fast, but she never stands still; and Miss West paces her performance accordingly.
• • There is an attitude of sublime fatalism about the whole business. Miss West extends her hand to be kissed with royal assurance. Even in the clinches she is monumentally disinterested, and she concludes her love scenes with a devastating wise-crack before they are started. Although Miss West is the goddess of sex, it might reasonably be argued that she scrupulously keeps sex out of her acting by invariably withdrawing from anything but the briefest encounters. "Diamond Lil" is a play about the world of sex, but there is very little sex in it. ...
• • ... After thoughtfully studying her performance twice in a little over two months, this reviewer is still puzzled over one thing. Is Miss West serious or is she kidding? Not that it matters. She is obviously a good trouper, which is probably the reason she has been able to hold this ramshackle melodrama together for twenty-one years.
• • Source: Review: "Mae West Back in Town as 'Diamond Lil'" written for The New York Times; published on Tuesday, 1 February 1949.
• • On Friday, 1 February 2008 • •
• • The paperback edition of "Mae West: Empress of Sex" written by Maurice Leonard was released on Friday, 1 February 2008. The first edition of Leonard's biography, in hardcover, had come out in August 1992.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said:
• • To The Beatles, Mae West said:  "No, I won't be on it. What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?"
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • A drama critic mentioned Mae West's play on Tuesday, 1 February 1927.
• • "Went to Be Shocked — Found 'The Drag' Clean" • •
• • The critic wrote: There is not a ribald line in the whole play, unless one can construe this: "You must come over some time, dearie, and I'll bake you a pan of biscuits." And staid Bridgeport rocked in laughter! ...
• • The critic continued:"The Drag" hopes to secure a New York home, commencing on February 7 or 8. It's exceptionally well handled, and certainly comes well under "the license of the times."
• • Source: Review of "The Drag" by Staff Correspondent (publication not given); published in Connecticut on Tuesday, 1 February 1927 
• • We need not remind the Mae-mavens among us that, in 1926, Mae West wrote the "come up sometime" line for Winnie, a drag queen character in her play "The Drag."
• • Here is Winnie's line of dialogue (from Mae's script):  "So glad to have you meet me. Come up sometime and I'll bake you a pan of biscuits." This statement was Mae West's intentional echo of the very well-known line of the late great female impersonator Bert Savoy, who used to say, "Oh, Margie! You must come over!"
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started eight years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2564th 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:

Source: to Google

• • Photo:
• • Mae West 1927
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  1. Hi, I've been dipping into this cornucopia of a blog for a year or two now. Great stuff! I can't enough of old jazz, vaudeville and burlesque information and pictures... and of Mae West. Do you know anything about Mae Johnson, a Cotton Club performer who was known as the Sepia Mae West for her impression of the great lady?

  2. Hello. Please see this post on the "Sepia Mae West" and come back and see us again soon!