Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mae West: Pre-Sex

When he was 22 years old, John Huston [1906 — 1987] saw MAE WEST on Broadway in "Diamond Lil." He was mesmerized by her performance and the folk song she sang: "Frankie and Johnny." The song inspired him to write his own play "Frankie and Johnny" and also to research the origins of the song across the USA. His fascinating hardcover book was published in New York by the Boni brothers in 1930. It's not clear if Mae ever received a copy.
• • Fast forward from 1930 to 1970.
• • When it came to casting Buck Loner [Myra Breckinridge's uncle], Fox decided upon John Huston, against the wishes of Michael Sarne, the long-haired hippie British director.
• • The acrimony on the set is as legendary as its costly over-runs. After filming his final scene, John Huston departed with these words: "Goodbye, everybody. You'll never cut it together."
• • On Saturday, 17 July 1993 • •
• • An article was printed in London on Saturday, 17 July 1993 revealing backstage bickering on the set of "Myra Breckinridge" and re-hashing how Mae West made Raquel Welch cry because she couldn't wear white.  (You'd think this was the wedding of a virgin queen, Raquel dear.)
• • British reporter John Lyttle wrote: Michael Sarne's line on Raquel Welch is legendary, a thing for movie buffs to quote: 'She is useful only as a joke.' The critic Rex Reed, cast as the pre-sex change Myra, was merely 'dreadful.' True, Mae West was praised, but John Huston was dismissed as an 'old hack.'
• • John Lyttle added: 'John (not Huston, not even John Huston, but John) called me worse. We all called each other names. The only reason the producer wanted John Huston around was, if they sacked me, they had a director around. He was a threat. I didn't want him on my set. Besides, I always wanted Mickey Rooney.'
• • John Lyttle continued: Mike Sarne claims he wouldn't have minded being sacked. He only did it for the money. He was down to his last 20 cents when he sold David Brown on the idea that the book's pivotal moment occurred when the male Myra comes to after a car accident and shouts: 'Where are my tits? Where are my tits?' As in the best Hollywood fables, Zanuck agreed and immediately flew him out to the coast, where the production's original blueprint — — 'Gore's two unfilmmable scripts' — — hit the wastepaper bin, along with his casting suggestions.  ...  And I can remember Raquel Welch bursting into the office crying because Mae West wouldn't let her wear white costumes. Raquel thought she was the star and then Mae, a bigger star, arrived. Raquel sat there sobbing, 'I want to wear white, I want to wear white.'  I told her Mae was an old trouper and it was probably going to be her last film and to leave it alone. Poor Mae used to come to me and ask, 'Why does that girl hate me?' It was a catty female thing.' ...
• • Source: Article: "Mike Sarne? Mike Sarne? Why?" written by John Lyttle for The Independent; published on Saturday, 17 July 1993.
• • On Sunday, 17 July 1932 in The L.A. Times • •
• • Interviewed for The L.A. Times by California reporter Muriel Babcock,  Mae West told her, "The screen doesn't require as much acting of a certain type. The camera catches the slightest facial movements, the slightest twitch of an eye." The complete interview appeared in the weekend edition on Sunday, 17 July 1932.
• • On Sunday, 17 July 1949 • •
• • In 1949, when Mae West was starring in "Diamond Lil" on Broadway, she stayed in the Chatham Hotel — — where she was floored (alas, not in a good way).  On Sunday, 17 July 1949, her fans learned about the lawsuit on page 1.
• • "Mae West Fell In Hotel, Claims Dollars" • •
• • New York, July 16 (A.A.P.) — Actress Mae West to-day sued New York's Hotel Chatham for 250,000 dollars, damages for injuries received in a fall in her bathroom there. She alleged that a defective floormat caused the fall, which made her "sick, sore, lame, and disabled."
• • Miss West said she was prevented from continuing to earn 3,000 dollars weekly as the star of the play "Diamond Lil " The fall, she said, broke bones in her left ankle.
• • Source: The Sunday Herald (Sydney, NSW), page 1, Sunday, 17 July 1949.
• • Save the Dates: August 12th and August 17th and 18th • •  
• • What: 2 events timed to celebrate the 120th birthday of Mae West, born in Brooklyn, NY on August 17, 1893
• • When: (A.) Monday, August 12, 2013 from 4:00pm — 5:45pm [Seating from 3:45pm]
• • Where: (A.) Hudson Branch Library, 66 Leroy St., New York, NY 10014; NOT accessible to wheelchairs  
• • Who: (A.) Reader's Theatre Cast: Costumed in 1890s Bowery style, actress Darlene Violette and actor Sidney Myer present the 1932 novel "Diamond Lil" written by Mae West in Mae's words and period songs with live music by Brian McInnis.  At intervals, historian and playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo leads an "Armchair Tour" through the boisterous Bowery and Chinatown of the 1890s.  
• • What else: The ever-popular Mae West Raffle.  
• • August 12th Admission and Raffle Tickets: FREE.  
• • RSVP: 212-243-6876 [Hudson Branch Library's phone]
• • Closest MTA subway stations: Christopher St. or West Fourth St.; or the M7 bus.  
• • Closest PATH station: Christopher St.  
• • The public is invited (suitable for age 18 and over)
• • All of the sex and none of the censorship . . . • •  
• • Two stagings of "Diamond Lil" on August 17th and August 18th.
• • When: (B.) Saturday, August 17, 2013 — in the evening  
• • Where: (B.) John Strasberg Studios, 555 8th Avenue, Suite 2310, New York, NY 10018;  accessible to wheelchairs  
• • When: (C.) Sunday, August 18, 2013 — 7:00 pm  
• • Where: (C.) Don't Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street, NYC
• • Who: (B. and C.) A new staged version of the 1932 novel "Diamond Lil" written by Mae West starring Darlene Violette, Sidney Myer, and TBA. Live music by Brian McInnis.  The novel, which closely follows the 3-hour production Mae performed onstage from 1928 — 1951, is more exciting than the family-friendly screen version. Playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo massaged Mae's classic opus into an 85-minute adaptation featuring all of the sex and none of the censorship. No intermission.  
• • What else: The ever-popular Mae West Raffle and birthday festivities.  
• • August 17th and 18th Admission: reserved seating only (payment info will follow)  
• • Closest MTA subway stations: 42nd St./ Times Sq. via A, C, E, 1, 2, 3   
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "It's got so that if a man opens a door for a lady to go through first, he's the doorman."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • The Star-Ledger discussed Mae West.
• • "Mae West on home video" • •
• • Mark Voger wrote: "The Heat's On" [1943] is historically significant as Mae West's final film for 27 years. (The screen sex goddess finally returned from the desert to make ... "Myra Breckinridge.")
• • Mark Voger noted: West looks fine at 50 — that is, considering she's Mae West. Dressed like a drag queen in feathers and gigantic hats, with her affected jiggly walk, West seems like a creature from another time, even in the 1940s. But she delivers a mean zinger — West's one-liners in "The Heat's On" are more put-down than double entendre — and she plays hilarious bedroom farce with Victor Moore as a smitten investor in her show...
• • Source: Review by Mark Voger for The Star-Ledger; published on Friday, 8 February 2013 
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started nine years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2695th 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 1970

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