MAE WEST would have loved to see her play "The Pleasure Man" performed in Glasgow during the month of February in 2000. Theatre critic Ian Shuttleworth gives us his critique. Let's enjoy it together.
• • "The Pleasure Man" by Mae West • •
• • Ian Shuttleworth wrote: . . . Several years ago, Jean Rhys's short story was staged by Neil Bartlett's erstwhile company Gloria, whose musical director Nicolas Bloomfield appears on the main stage here, doubling as a drag queen and — — quelle surprise — — a musical director in Mae West's "The Pleasure Man." It is generally overlooked that West arrived in Hollywood on the strengths of her writing as much as of her performance, and the remarkable construction of this vaudeville-backstage drama is testament to those strengths. The first act, in particular, is an astounding kaleidoscope, as acts arrive on the bare stage to set up for that week's run at the theatre, and snatches of song, dance, dialogue and innuendo fly out between the raising and lowering of backcloths and lighting bars.
• • Ian Shuttleworth explained: On its second Broadway performance in 1928, "The Pleasure Man" was raided and its entire cast arrested for obscenity. This, too, is understandable, with its drag queens (and kings), single entendres (yes, "gay" was in use in that sense as long as 70 years ago) and grisly offstage denouement; I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the family next to me arrived home after the show, to hear the mother explaining to her eight-year-old daughter exactly what was meant by the oblique but plentiful references to a fatal operation performed upon lothario "Rod" Terrill so that he could never again "treat a woman that way."
• • Ian Shuttleworth noted: Stewart Laing makes deft use of his cast of a dozen professional actors and as many RSAMD acting students in minor roles, and utilises a labyrinth of wooden frames to suggest the doorways and mirrors of the interconnecting dressing rooms of the second act. He cannot disguise that the moral ending is rather laboured, and that West is rightly more interested in her snapshots of backstage activity than in a shapely resolution; what he does brilliantly is capture the cut-price magic of the vaudeville world.
• • "The Pleasure Man" at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow [Opened 2-4 February, 2000]
• • Source: Stage Review by Ian Shuttleworth for Financial Times; posted in February 2000.
• • On Tuesday, 4 February 1930 in NYC • •
• • New York City's "picture newspaper" The Daily Mirror reported that Mae West "collapsed in her dressing room at the Shubert Riviera Theatre" [sic]. Nevertheless, her attorney Nathan Burkan dismissed the idea that his client's uncustomary breakdown was due to her upcoming court appearance. The author of "Pleasure Man," insisted Burkan, "is not in the least worried about the outcome of her impending trial."
• • Scheduled to begin on Tuesday, 4 February 1930 in Manhattan, the "Pleasure Man" trial was not brought before Judge Bertini until 16 March 1930. Mae looked plenty worried in several photos taken when the trial was in session.
• • The "Pleasure Man" trial is intriguingly dramatized in Act 2 of the stage play "Courting Mae West." The audience gets to see how Mae first behaves very cagily around her friend Texas Guinan, and later on they hear the terrible truths unfolding when Mae's sister Beverly enters as Nathan Burkan exits.
• • Source: The Daily Mirror (NYC); published on Monday, 3 February 1930.
• • On Friday, 4 February 1949 on WOR • •
• • NYC broadcast journalist John Wingate interviewed Mae West backstage before the opening of a revival of "Diamond Lil" on Broadway. Their 2-minute exchange is quite funny and was heard in the NYC area over the popular radio station WOR.
• • On Wednesday, 4 February 1998 in Sammy • •
• • The raunchy comic book, Sammy, released their Mae West issue in early 1998. The panels were drawn by Raoul Cauvin and Jean-Pol. The cover has a maritime theme. An odd looking fellow in a beige raincoat appears to be mesmerized by Mae West, who is clad in a chic sailor outfit with her midriff exposed. Sammy's issue was published as a board book on Wednesday, 4 February 1998 by Dupuis.
• • Overheard in Hollywood • •
• • In an interview, D.W. Griffth named Mae West as one of the ten most interesting persons in America.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "It's no good trying to be serious. I tried it 18 months ago by playing Catherine of Russia, but when I held out my hand to be kissed the audience was not happy until I raised my eyebrows in that way they like. So gradually the whole thing became a burlesque."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • A California paper mentioned Mae West.
• • Stanford Theatre on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday — — "Diamond Lil" Mae West in "She Done Him Wrong" — — A Saga of the Bowery! Don't Miss It!
• • Source: Item in The Stanford Daily; published on Friday, 3 February 1933
• • The Mae West Blog celebrates its 11th anniversary • •
• • Thank
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• • By the Numbers • •
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• • Photo: • • Mae West • • in 1932 • •
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