Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mae West: Staggering Sang-froid

Every day it seems someone is thinking about MAE WEST.
• • This is the second part of Liz Smith's lengthy reflection on the Brooklyn bombshell.
• • "Was Mae West the greatest star?" • •
• • Liz Smith wrote:  Mae West behaved as if she was indeed the world's most beautiful woman. Not only that, she depended on no man to tell her she was beautiful — — or to tell her anything!
• • Liz Smith continued:  If her onscreen men supported her financially that was their choice — — and their problem if she left them. The looser Pre-Code restrictions of the time also allowed Mae to roll out her double and triple entendres with staggering sang-froid. Maybe she didn't write every one of her wisecracks, but who else could have delivered them so perfectly? (All genius needs assistance.) She could make "how do you do?" sound like the words needed to be banned.
• • Mae's characters had conscience but little sentimentality • •
• • Liz Smith explained: Mae never played a mother, a woman truly pining for a man, or a real person. Her characters had conscience but little sentimentality. And little fear. In "Klondike Annie," her jealous, ominously threatening Asian sugar daddy says: "It is written there are only two perfectly good men: one dead, the other unborn." Mae responds tartly: "Yeah? Which one are you?" She was always inviolate in her independence. Salvador Dali painted her. She was photographed as The Statue of Libido. West was a cultural phenomenon before that phrase was ever used.
• • Liz Smith recalled this: (Years after her movie heyday, she was approached to star in Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard." She rejected this out of hand. What? Appearing as a woman desperate for a man, living on her past glory? Impossible. In Mae's mind, her glory was still happening.)
• • Liz Smith added: The Hays Code, which supposedly safeguarded public decency in the movies, tamped down Mae's suggestive onscreen remarks and soon her vogue cooled. One could go only so far with the character she created anyway. But she kept on, in nightclubs, a Broadway revival of "Diamond Lil," clever TV appearances, such as the 1959 Oscar telecast, singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Rock Hudson. Then as now, survivors were admired, especially survivors who behaved as if they had nothing to survive or overcome. The longer she endured — — healthy in mind, body and ego — — the more her legend was burnished.  Burnished most often by Mae herself — — when she bragged that all her movies were hits or that every recording she made was a smash. Nobody corrected her. (West even made a rock and roll album — — an eye-rolling curiosity then, a very valuable curiosity item now!)
• • Liz Smith recalled: Mae never acknowledged age or other sex symbols — — as Raquel Welch learned on the set of West's penultimate film, 1970's "Myra Breckenridge." . . .
• • Part 3 will be posted tomorrow. 
• • Source: Article by Liz Smith for Boston Herald; published on Tuesday, 30 September 2014.
• • On Saturday, 14 October 1933 • •
• • The review in Film Daily (on page 6) had this title: "Mae West in 'I'm No Angel.'" Film Daily ran it in their issue dated for Saturday, 14 October 1933.  The New York Evening Journal printed their review (on page 8) on 14 October 1933, too. The New York Post ran a glowing piece about Mae on 14 October 1933: "America's sweetheart."
• • On Thursday, 14 October 1937 • •
• • It was Thursday, 14 October 1937 — — and some Californians held an engraved invitation to take tea with Mae West.
• • An opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea prepared by George Rector — — who was being featured in Mae's latest motion picture for Paramount — — was quite the sought after invitation.
• • The event was staged at Major Studios — — 1040 North Las Palmas.
• • Overheard in Hollywood • •
• • Mae West is being guarded after threats.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "I consider myself above changing.  I haven't had time to change."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • The Corsair mentioned Mae West in a poem.
• • "To a Pretzel" • •
• • I love your faultless bends and curves,
• • Your gorgeous luster, your endless swerves,
• • The grains of salt upon your crust,
• • Your superb texture, its colored rust.
• • You may have the shape of Miss Mae West — —
• • But I love the curves of a pretzel best.
• • Source: Poem in Corsair (California);  published on Wednesday, 14 October 1936
• • The Mae West Blog celebrates its 10th anniversary • •    
• • Thank you for reading, sending questions, and posting comments during this past decade. The other day we entertained 1,223 visitors. 
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started ten years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 3025th 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: http://MaeWest.blogspot.com/

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• • Photo:
• • Mae West in 1936

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