Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mae West: Marie Wells

MAE WEST starred in "Klondike Annie" [1936] and did several new numbers including "Mister Deep Blue Sea," which her character sings to Victor McLaglen. 
• • Fans will recall that several dance hall girls were used in the background of a certain scene. Marie Wells was one. After 1934, her once auspicious rise in the cinema had flat-lined. The former star of stage and screen was struggling and contemplating suicide. Give Marie your attention.
• • Marie Wells [20 February 1894 — 3 July 1949] • •
• • Born in Cleveland, Mississippi on Tuesday, 20 February 1894 was a pretty baby called Marie Edith Wells. She pursued her passion for the dramatic arts and worked hard during her voice and dance lessons. 
• • The arc of a promising screen career began in 1915 when she was 21. Marie E. Wells, who handled numerous featured roles as the ingenue in silent movies, would smoothly transition to talkies and maintain her Tinseltown credibility until the mid-1930s.
• • In between film projects, she was lucky and talented enough to land a principal role in a revival of "Florodora," produced at the Century Theatre on Broadway from 5 April 1920 — 14 August 1920. Marie Wells was 26 when she was cast as Marquita. Mae West also performed in this lavish auditorium once located on Central Park West at West 62nd.
• • A year later, Marie was seen as Olga in a revival of "The Merry Widow." This popular operetta, with a modernized production, was staged at the Knickerbocker Theatre from 5 September 1921 — 22 October 1921. After closing on Broadway, this blockbuster hit began a well-received regional tour and Marie Wells stayed with the cast. The show got terrific reviews when it was seen in Atlantic City at the Globe, at the National Theatre in Washington, DC, etc. One critic described the updated version as "a rebirth rather than a revival."
• • From 1915 — 1939, Marie Wells participated in 34 motion pictures.
• • What happened in 1935 that caused the fall from grace? Just one year before, Marie had a supporting role (as Mabel) in "Elmer and Elsie" [1934]; on the set she got to meet Nella Walker, who would also be cast in "Klondike Annie." Other cast mates who had the privilege to work with Mae West included Roscoe Karns (Leo in "Night After Night"), Albert Conti (Head Steward in "Goin' to Town"), and Duke York (a spectator in "I'm No Angel").
• • But by the time she was hired for one of her last onscreen credits, the Oliver Hardy comedy "Zenobia" [1939], Marie Wells was shoehorned into an unimpressive uncredited bit as a party guest. ("Zenobia" brought together a number of Mae West film alums — — Hattie McDaniel, Alice Brady, Ralph Brooks, Nigel De Brulier, Laura Treadwell, Cyril Ring, et al.)
• • Faced with bleak career prospects, a ritual of unfulfillment, and bad health, the troubled actress pondered her future in a drab rooming house. Morose and unwilling to go on, Marie Wells took her life with a drug cocktail, ending it in Hollywood, California on 3 July 1949. She was 55. Very sad.
• • Local headlines read "Marie Wells, Former Movie Star, Suicide."
• • LOS ANGELES, July 4, 1949 — Police today blamed poor health for the suicide of Marie Wells, 55, stage and film star of decades ago. The former actress was found in her cheap rented room by her landlord’s son. She had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. 
• • A note addressed to her sister, Mrs. Eloise McDaniel of Glenburn, Calif., read:  "Forgive me, please, but my health is bad. I can’t go on.”
• • February 1934 in the Hollywood Reporter • •
• • The Hollywood Reporter ran an article: "Mae West Captures Paris Fans."
• • They wrote: Mae West has taken Paris like the revolutionists took the Bastille. "I'm No Angel" is packing them in at Gaumont-Elysee, with long lines being turned away daily.
• • The Hollywood Reporter also ran this article in February 1934: "Mae West Not So Hot In Icy Stockholm."
• • A Stockholm reviewer wrote: The Swedes can't get the slant of America and England on Mae West in "She Done Him Wrong." Censorship board had to view picture twice before making up its mind. Now, while picture is doing well, critics and patrons don't care so much either for the subject matter of the film, or for the wiggles of Mae.
• • The Hollywood Reporter ran this interesting item, too: "Prinz Quits Paramount With Indie Pic Plans." Mae West was going to be a puppet. The article explained: Leroy Prinz, who has been at Paramount for the past year directing musical numbers, has handed in his resignation and plans to go into independent production. Prinz plans on making a series of shorts with puppets. The puppets are to be patterned after screen characters. He has already finished the first short, with the Mae West character featured.
• • On Friday, 28 February 2003 • •
• • In London, England Dr. James Pitt-Payne (in association with Doug Grierson) did a sequence and karaoke of "Good Night Nurse" by Mae West from 1912. Music by W. Raymond Walker; lyrics by Thomas J. Gray; copyright MCMXII by Jerome H. Remick and Co., N.Y. and Boston. You can download the midi of "Good Night Nurse" from his web site. The men completed this project on Friday, 28 February 2003 at 00.21.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said:  "I'll never do the smart thing because it is smart. For instance, I won't go to the opera. It's all right for people who honestly love it, but a certain percentage goes just to be seen. Personally, I'd rather watch prize-fights, and I do."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Motion Picture Daily mentioned Mae West.
• • "Mae Loyal to Paramount"
• • Hollywood, October 2 — Mae West declares she intends to confine her picture activities to Paramount, despite the fact that her contract permits her to work for other companies between films. ...
• • Source: Motion Picture Daily; published on Tuesday, 3 October 1933 
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started eight years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2591st 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:

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• • Mae West 1936
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