An art historian examined the opening of "She Done Him Wrong" starring MAE WEST. Let's enjoy his special insights into the opening scenes of the motion picture, the footage featuring an oil painting of Lady Lou, commissioned by Gus Jordan for his Bowery saloon. Prepare for sublime enchantment and erudition.
• • “Smart enough to play it their way” — — • •
• • Lady Lou as Quiescent Ariadne and Resistant Sabine • •
• • Todd Larkin wrote: . . . The tale unfolds in a long, close space lined on one side by a high bar and on the other by a buffet surmounted by a large painting of Lady Lou reclining naked on a grassy knoll and lifting her arms skyward. Alternately masked and exposed by the men milling before it, the picture becomes the focus of several discrete conversations about Lou’s beauty and desirability. The chatter subsides as Lou enters through the adjoining concert hall, covered in diamonds and lace and trailed by a liveried coachman piled with packages.
• • Todd Larkin wrote: Rotating hips and eyes, she entices the handsome Sergei Stanieff with some risqué cartes de visite. “Oh, wanna see the pictures?” she purrs. “Hmm, they are wonderful,” he responds, “but…uh…I like best that marvelous painting of you in the bar.” “Oh yeah, I gotta admit that is a flash, but I do wish Gus hadn’t hung it up over the … free lunch.” In this way, Lou colludes in perpetuating the image of a great beauty obtained at high price.
• • Todd Larkin wrote: It is rare for an art object to play such a significant, character-enhancing role in the opening frames of a movie, though artifacts were regularly anthropomorphized in films of the 1930s and 1940s: a portrait ages and disfigures in concert with its referent’s grizzly deeds; a clock ticks away the minutes as a jealous suitor makes his way to a dame’s bedroom with a shotgun; a staircase slows a mute servant’s descent to a dark cellar inhabited by a strangler.
• • Todd Larkin wrote: Robert Usher, who served as art director on She Done Him Wrong, probably contracted out the job of preparing a painting of Mae West in the guise of an awakening Venus. Although the picture has little resemblance to her (beyond blond hair, fulsome [sic] bosom and hips), it does reference two well-known images from the realm of high art: John Vanderlyn’s Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos (1805 — 1812) and Giovanni Bologna’s Rape of the Sabine Woman (1583), accessible via period prints, contemporary illustrated books, and travel photos. . . .
• • Source: Article written by art historian Todd Larkin for ToddLarkin.com; posted on Monday, 19 September 2011.
• • On Friday, 21 September 1934 • •
• • Around 21 September 1934, Mae West was busy promoting her latest release: "Belle of the Nineties."
• • On Friday, 21 September 1934 • •
• • On Friday, 21 September 1934, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published this tidbit under "Hollywood Gossip": Mae West is planning to back a stock company on the coast. Her sister, Beverly, and her manager, James Timony, will head the enterprise.
• • Overheard in Hollywood • •
• • Mae West enjoyed eating the eggplant parmigiana at Casa D'Oro in Westwood.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Every time the postman rings, I get a dozen proposals. I ought to sue my 'husbands' for alienation of propositions."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • Associated Press mentioned Mae West.
• • "Actress Mae West, 72, Has Nervous Collapse" • •
• • Hollywood — Mae West, 72, was reported in "satisfactory" condition today in Cedars of Lebanon Hospital where she was admitted last Thursday for treatment of a "nervous collapse."
• • Attendants indicated Saturday that she would be released within a few days.
• • Source: Associated Press rpt by Huntingdon Daily News (page 2); published on Monday, 21 September 1964
• • The Mae West Blog celebrates its 11th anniversary • •
• • Thank
you for reading, sending questions, and posting comments during these
past eleven years. The other day we entertained 3,497 visitors. And we reached a
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• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started ten years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 3271st blog post.
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • in 1964 with Mr. Ed • •
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