Thursday, August 02, 2018

Mae West: Many Rumors

Jill Watts, biographer of MAE WEST, a distinguished professor at CSUSM, and a talented author of books on Father Divine [1879—1965] and Hattie McDaniel [1895—1952], which has inspired a new film about the Oscar winner, has kindly consented to an exclusive interview with The Mae West Blog. This is Part 3.
• • Mae West drew much inspiration from black culture • •
• • JILL WATTS: I was surprised to learn that there were rumors that Mae West was black.  When I looked into it, there wasn’t any proof that it was true (or that it was completely not true).  But what was clear was that she drew much inspiration from black culture.
• • JW: In terms of archives, I have to say the censorship files were enormously helpful but many folks have looked at them.  I think my original contribution was looking at African American sources, which no one had done, as well as public records and newspapers.  I approached Mae West’s life story as if she was a working class woman of the era and looked for the same sources that we would search for with people who are invisible because of their class background.  Her later life is much easier to document and her autobiography helps a lot there as well. 
• • Mae West’s earliest years • •  . . .
• • This exciting interview with Prof. Jill Watts will be continued on the next post.
• • Recommended Reading: “Mae West: An Icon in Black and White” by Jill Watts [Oxford University Press; paperback edition, 2003]; 400 pages.
• • On Wednesday, 2 August 1944 • •
• • It was Wednesday, August 2nd and the applause rang out from the Shubert Theatre [225 West 44th Street], signaling the gala Broadway debut of "Catherine Was Great," when Mae West portrayed the Empress of Russia. Produced by Mike Todd, the show starred Mae as the Empress of Love who handled her men as skillfully as she handled affairs of state.
• • Overheard in Hollywood • •
• • Clark Gable was Gable courting Mae West at the beginning or Marilyn Monroe at the end. Katharine Hepburn just went on being Katharine Hepburn.
• • In Her Own Words • •
• • Mae West said: "Let 'em wonder. I never believed in givin' them too much of me."
• • Quote, Unquote • •
• • An article about VIPs at a boxing match mentioned Mae West.
• • Louella Parsons wrote:  Snapshots of Hollywood collected at random: . . . Mae West, dripping with orchids, in a ringside seat with her boy friend, Jim Timony;  B. P. Schulberg and Sylvia Sidney on the other side of the ring; Roger Pryor and Ann Sothern, Adela Rogers and the new boy friend, Enzo Fiermonte, Raoul Walsh, Adolph Zukor and dozens of other film celebrities, watching these bouts;  ...
• • Source: Louella Parsons gossip rpt by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; published on Saturday, 25 August 1934
• • The evolution of 2 Mae West plays that keep her memory alive • • 
• • A discussion with Mae West playwright LindaAnn LoSchiavo — — 
• •
• • The Mae West Blog celebrates its 14th anniversary • •  
• • Thank you for reading, sending questions, and posting comments during these past fourteen years. Not long ago, we entertained 3,497 visitors. And we reached a milestone recently when we completed 4,000 blog posts. Wow!  
• • By the Numbers • •
• • The Mae West Blog was started fourteen years ago in July 2004. You are reading the 4015th 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:


• • Photo:
• • Mae West • on a cover with Clark Gable in 1933

• • Feed — —
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1 comment:

  1. The interview comments of Jill Watts have been most interesting. From my personal research into Mae West and her interactions with African Americans, I can attest that she reached out to people of colour in her musical numbers for her films. Way ahead of the curve in her acceptance of talent, I hope to shine light on this in my own tome. Meanwhile, I applaud your efforts in your continuing superb work preparing this daily blog!