Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Mae West: Della Fox

As she plotted her script for "Diamond Lil" in 1927 and 1928, MAE WEST gave her heroine several challenges. Those who have read the novel (published in 1932) perhaps will recall the scene in the first chapter when Gus Jordan tells Lil to dump the diamonds other men have given her.
• • Diamond Lil: You want me to sell all the rocks you ain't give me, Gus?
• • Gus Jordan: Sure. I can't bear to see you wearin' anythin' else but my stuff. You know, Lil, you mean a lot to me. I want you to be a big success. Look, already since you been entertainin' downstairs, we're doing twice the business as Nigger Mike Salter or The Bucket of Blood. Why everybody says you got it all over Della Fox.  Even Tony Pastor's got his eye on you. Look at them uptown swells that come down here now just to see Diamond Lil. I want you to be just my Diamond Lil. And I just want you to have the diamonds I give you.
• • In the summer of 1934, Photoplay linked Mae's name with Della Fox.
• • Kirtley Baskette wrote: And Mae no longer had the time. But she tried to do the impossible. More words flashed out of Hollywood about "Diamond Lil" than about any other star since Rudolph Valentino. More curvilinear poses were printed and distributed than any since Della Fox rode to fame in cigarette boxes. ...
• • Source: Article: "Has Mae West Gone High Hat?" for Photoplay Magazine; published in the issue dated for July 1934.
• • Let's find out more about Della Fox who died in 1913, the same year as two other people who inspired Mae's durable stage drama and novel, Chuck Connors and Big Tim Sullivan.
• • Della May Fox [13 October 1870 — 15 June 1913] • •
• • Born in St. Louis, Missouri on 15 June 1913, Della Fox was a singing comedienne who was featured in local Gilbert and Sullivan theatricals in St. Louis, which put her on the boards starting at the age of 7.  She played children's roles with Marie Prescott's stock company.
• • During the 1890s, her popularity peaked when she was in her 20s.  Producers cast the diminutive beauty in several musicals opposite the very tall De Wolf Hopper. Fox also toured with her own company, receiving good notices.
• • Her success was short-lived, alas. Beginning in 1899, the dainty 29-year-old thespian suffered from ill health and the effects of alcohol and drug abuse; on 28 October 1899, it was reported that she was near death from peritonitis. She survived that illness and returned to the stage. One year later, however, in June 1900, she suffered a nervous breakdown. By the autumn, fortunately she was well enough to return to the stage for The Rogers Brothers in Central Park.
• • Della Fox married Jacob David Levy, a diamond broker, in Boston in December 1901. Although she began to troupe on the vaudeville circuit for awhile, by 1904 she was committed to a Long Island institution called The Brunswick Home. Pulling through this ordeal, Della Fox gradually regained her strength and returned to the lights of Broadway where she was seen in "The West Point Cadet" [1904] and "Rosedale" [1913].
• • A relapse brought her back to bed.  This time she was a patient at a private sanatorium in New York City, where she died on 15 June 1913. She was 42. Della Fox was buried back home in St. Louis in Bellefontaine Cemetery. A sad ending, to be sure.
• • On Tuesday, 7 August 1934 in Variety • •
• • According to Daily Variety, "Belle of the Nineties" was given the purity seal on 6 August  1934. Variety announced this on the front cover of their issue dated for Tuesday, 7 August 1934.
• • Correspondence from Hammell to Joe Breen dated Wednesday, 7 August 1934, however, listed half-a-dozen script revisions that would be made. These modifications were meant to scrub away any implied immorality from the Ruby Carter character or the Tiger Kid.
• • Save the Dates: August 12th and August 17th and 18th • • 
• • What: three events timed to celebrate the 120th birthday of Mae West, born in Brooklyn, NY on August 17, 1893
• • On Monday, 12 August 2013 at the Hudson Sq Library • • 
• • One afternoon only! • •
• • When: Monday, August 12, 2013 from 4:00pm — 5:45pm [Seating from 3:45pm]
• • Where: Hudson Branch Library, 66 Leroy St., New York, NY 10014; NOT accessible to wheelchairs 
• • Who + What: "Diamond Lil" by Mae West as a Reader's Theatre Experience with words and period songs and live music — a unique, unforgettable presentation
• • 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 — enhanced with period songs and 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 with rare vintage images you have never seen before. 
• • What else: The ever-popular Mae West Raffle. 
• • August 12th Admission and Raffle Tickets: FREE. 
• • RSVP:  Email  MaeWestDiamondLil (at) gmail  (dot) com
• • 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)
• • The library has a spacious auditorium so tell your fun-loving friends about this!
• • All of the sex and none of the censorship . . . • • 
• • The novel "Diamond Lil" closely follows the 3-hour production Mae performed onstage from 1928 — 1951, and it is much more exciting than the family-friendly screen version. Playwright LindaAnn Loschiavo massaged Mae's 1928 Bowery melodrama in three acts into a pared-down 85-minute adaptation featuring all of the sex and none of the censorship. No intermission. 
• • There will be two stagings of "Diamond Lil" on Saturday, August 17th and on Sunday, August 18th in Manhattan, both in midtown. Tickets will go fast. Don't miss out.
• • Find out more details (both addresses, performance times, ticket prices, cast) here: 
• • Updates:
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "I ain't ice." 
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Photoplay Magazine interviewed Mae West.
• • "Has Mae West Gone High Hat?" • •
• • Kirtley Baskette wrote: Take it from Mae herself — — West is still West.  It has only been a matter of months since Mae tossed some mean curves and busted up more repressions than the NRA — — only a few months since the undulating Siren of Sex and Sensation became the bad girl friend of the world — the secret passion. ...
• • Source: Article: "Has Mae West Gone High Hat?" for Photoplay Magazine; published in the issue dated for July 1934
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started nine years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 2710th 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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