Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Mae West: Pulled It Off

In 1966, a London movie house was reviving a MAE WEST movie at the end of December. The Spectator's man on the aisle wrote this appreciation of "Goin' to Town." Let's enjoy it again.
• • "Come Back, Mae" • •
• • "Goin' to Town" (National Film Theatre, December 31) • •
• • Nothing is to be more sternly resisted than critical moping about the good old days. To the plaintive bleat that they don't make them like that any more, the only honest answer is that they never really did. All the same, in a week when the cinema has laid itself out — — flat out, one might almost say — — to entertain, it must (in accuracy) be reported that no one really pulled it off except Mae West, vintage 1935, in "Goin' to Town."
• • As a vehicle for its overflowing star, this is perhaps slightly on the skimpy side: sixty-seven incredibly brisk minutes, which see Mae as a cattle rustler's widow with an eye on her own idea of high society, lurching like some great over-masted galleon through two husbands, a charity opera performance at which she recklessly decides to take on the role of Delilah, a Pygmalion tea party for the local dowagers, and a slight case of shooting.
• • 'Where did I see your lovely face before?' stammers one besotted admirer. 'Just where you see it now,' counters the imperturbably realistic Miss West. 'We're intellectual opposites,' she tells someone else in a burst of self-appraisal. 'I'm intellectual; you're opposite.'
• • And in the context of her own script, with one broadside after another to crumple lesser actors, she is unassailably right. The trick, not only of Mae West but of her age in the cinema, would seem to be the mixture of total self-confidence with wild naivete. Anyone who flung Mae West on to the screen — — no doubt standing carefully back from the blast — — knew just what he was doing. By contrast, one is struck by how difficult it seems these days to produce not art (that can more or less look after itself) but plain entertainment. Producers have grown wary and fidgety, worried by the knowingness of the audience, always hedging their bets.
• • It's not that they don't make them like that any more: it's that they can't. Present a modern producer with anyone as unequivocal as Mae West, and he would have to fight an almost irresistible urge to surround her with several hundred acres of scenery and a couple of juveniles for the teenage audience. In its casual, rackety way, "Goin' to Town" knew exactly how to cope with its star as the great American primitive, the woman not to be tamed by a feather boa.
• • Source: Film Review on page 14 in The Spectator [UK]; published on Friday,  30 December 1966.
• • On Monday, 30 December 1912 • •
• • On Monday, 30 December 1912 the singing comedienne was giving a double performance at 7:30 PM and at 11:00 PM at B.F. Keith's Union Square Theatre on Fourteenth Street. Featured on the bill, along with the 19-year-old hopeful, was a great deal of variety. Britain's Laddie Cliff offered new songs and eccentric dances; Phina and company entertained; Alfredo (wandering wizard of the violin) played; Asaki presented his juggling act, so popular in Japan; and gymnasts Lydia and Albino did . . . something.
• • On Saturday, 30 December 1933 • •
• • Picturegoer, a British publication sold in movie houses, ran a three part series: "Making Love to Mae West." The first installment ran on 10 December 1933, it continued on Saturday, 30 December 1993, and the final portion appeared on 6 January 1934.
• • Cary Grant's byline appeared. The actor either wrote it or (perhaps) merely signed it.
• • Overheard in Hollywood • •
• • "Tropicana" — — Gregory Ratoff and Mae West (Columbia) just completed shooting with Xavier Cugat.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Sex in grandma's day was always quaint."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • A Singapore newspaper printed an interview with Mae West.
• • On Sunday, 30 December 1934 that the final installment of "The Story of Mae West" was published in The Straits Times.
• • John C. Moffitt, who interviewed the movie queen several times during the 1930s, titled his in-depth piece "The High Priestess of Hokum."
• • Source: Article in The Straits Times; published on Sunday, 30 December 1934 
• • The Mae West Blog celebrates its 10th anniversary • •    
• • Thank you for reading, sending questions, and posting comments during this past decade. Yesterday we entertained 1,430 visitors. 
• • By the Numbers • • 
• • The Mae West Blog was started ten years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 3081st 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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• • Mae West in 1935

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