Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mae West: Buddy Harris

MAE WEST starred as Flower Belle Lee in "My Little Chickadee" [1940] and Buddy Harris had a scene as a porter. 
• • Buddy Harris [28 March 1891 — 5 September 1971] • •
• • Born in Pennsylvania on Saturday, 28 March 1891 was a sweet little tyke named Emil Harris Birnkrant.   
• • Taking the stage name Buddy Harris, the black newcomer to the screen trade impressed Warner Brothers, who made him the star of a light-hearted short "At the Party" [1929] when he was 38 years old. A brief cinema sojourn followed, shaped and curtailed by the racial stereotypes so prevalent in the movie studios at that time.
• • From 1929 — 1941, actor Buddy Harris participated in 11 motion pictures. Casting agents tossed a few crumbs his way; he played a butler, valet, black train porter, a witch doctor, and characters named "Dollar Bill" and "Nyga." ["Nyga," huh? Which screenwriter thought this was cute?]
• • Buddy Harris made his last stand in Tinseltown as a jocular train porter in the Abbott and Costello comedy "Buck Privates" [1941] directed by Mae West's good friend Arthur Lubin. Actress Nella Walker had a role in that film; Mae West fans will recall that Nella had played a missionary in "Klondike Annie." Three other actors cast in "Buck Privates" who were privileged to work with Mae West were Eddie Hall, Jack Perrin, and Bob Reeves.
• • Buddy Harris died in Los Angeles on 5 September 1971. He was 80.
• • On Wednesday, 28 March 1927 • •
• • In March 1927, in reaction to the Broadway aspirations of Mae West's play "The Drag," the New York State Legislature passed a law banning all depictions of homosexuality on the stage.
• • "Sex" had already run for 339 performances • •
• • After the Grand Jury's indictments were finished, the courtroom trial began in earnest on Wednesday, 28 March 1927. First on the agenda was jury selection.
• • A few days later, Norman Schloss would open the case for the defense, pointing out the most obvious details: that "Sex" had already run for 339 performances, and it had been seen by more than 325,000 patrons, including members of the police department and their wives, by judges of the criminal courts, by seven members of the district attorneys’ staffs, and by citizens of the city who showed no moral impairment. A Broadway “play jury” had previewed the show, and belated prosecution was unreasonable.
• • The prosecutor would argue that the play "Sex" was obscene and he would be calling a series of detectives who became courtroom actors.
• • Sergeant Patrick Keneally of the Midtown Vice Squad seemed to relish reciting the more ribald lines from "The Drag," and imitating the walk and gestures of "the fairies" on stage.
• • The full-length stage play "Courting Mae West" dramatizes the trial and other matters leading up to it — — and, of course, the colorful aftermath.
• • On Thursday, 28 March 1935 • •
• • Mae West was invited to party with the King of England during his jubilee in 1935.
• • The newspapers followed this story, announcing a few times that Mae West would definitely attend the party in London. However, it was not to be — — and the busy performer would not sail for Great Britain until after World War II when she toured in "Diamond Lil."
• • "Lord Byng Talks with Mae West" • • 
• • According to The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser: In 1935, Mae West was invited to the jubilee celebration of King George V in London, over the teacups at Paramount studio in Hollywood today by Lord Byng, British hero of Vimy Ridge. The actress entertained Lord and Lady Byng at tea on the set of her picture, and was in her usual good form saying, "Have another cup, dearie" to his lordship and "Two lumps, darling" to her ladyship. ... 
• • Source: Article:  "Lord Byng Talks with Mae West" in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser; published on Thursday, 28 March 1935.
• • Yes, yes, no doubt the British stationed in Singapore got a lot of fun out of articles such as this one.
• • King George V [1865 — 1936] began his reign on 6 May 1910, celebrating his Silver Jubilee on 6 May 1935.
• • Julian Byng, 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy Ridge, died one month after the royal festivities on 6 June 1935.
• • On Saturday, 28 March 1936 • •
• • It was a jolly weekend in Princeton, NJ. The Arcade Theatre announced (on page 3) that it would be offering "Klondike Annie" starring Mae West today, Saturday, 28 March 1936.
• • Source: The Daily Princetonian, Volume 61, Number 45; published on Saturday, 28 March 1936.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "I'm not just a star — — I'm a writer as well. And a thinker! I always keep busy."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • The Film Daily mentioned Mae West.
• • The Film Daily wrote: Jack La Rue, who had a leading role in Mae West's famous stage hit, "Diamond Lil," will make his first screen appearance with the star in "Go West Young Man." Emanuel Cohen, president of Major Pictures, is producing the new vehicle for Paramount release.  ...
• • Source: News Item in The Film Daily; published on Wednesday, 30 September 1936
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started eight years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2615th 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.

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• • Mae West 1940

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