Mae West was born in Brooklyn, New York, to "Battling Jack" West and Matilda Doelger. She began her career as a child star in vaudeville, and later went on to write her own plays, including "SEX", for which she was arrested. Though her first movie role was a small part in Night After Night (1932), her scene has become famous. A coat check girl exclaims, "Goodness! What lovely diamonds!", after seeing Mae's jewelry. Mae replies, "Goodness had nothing to do with it". Her next film, in which she starred, came the following year. She Done Him Wrong (1933) was based on her earlier and very popular play, "Diamond Lil". She went on to write and star in seven more films, including My Little Chickadee (1940) with W.C. Fields. Her last movie was Sextette (1978), which also came from a play. She died two years later.IMDb Mini Biography By: Carla Donnell
Mary Jane West was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 17, 1893, to parents involved in prizefighting and vaudeville. Mae herself worked on the stage and in vaudeville from the time she was five years old. She never was academically inclined because she was too busy performing. She studied dance as a child, and by the time she was 14 she was billed as "The Baby Vamp" for her performances on stage. Later Mae began writing her own plays. One of those plays, "Sex", landed her in jail for ten days on obscenity charges in 1926. Two years later her play "Diamond Lil" became a huge Broadway success. Mae caught the attention of the Hollywood studios and was given her first movie role with George Raft in Night After Night (1932). Although it was a small role, she was able to display a wit that was to make her world-famous. Raft himself said of Mae, "She stole everything but the cameras." She became a box-office smash hit, breaking all sorts of attendance records. Her second film, She Done Him Wrong (1933), was based on her earlier and popular play that she had written herself. The film was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture. It also made Cary Grant a star. Her third film later that year was I'm No Angel (1933). The controversy aroused by these two films resulted in the studios establishing the Motion Picture Production Code, which regulated what content could be shown or said in pictures. As a result of these codes, Mae began to double-talk so that a person could take a word or phrase any way they wished. This was so she could get her material past the censors, and it worked. She really felt she had a vested interest because it was her written work being scrutinized. She had already written and performed these for the stage with the very material now being filmed. Her next film, Belle of the Nineties (1934), was an equal hit. By 1936, with Klondike Annie (1936) and Go West Young Man (1936) she became the highest paid woman in the US. After 1937's Every Day's a Holiday (1937), she didn't make another film until 1940, when she co-starred with W.C. Fields in another film she wrote herself, My Little Chickadee (1940). It was well known she had little use for Fields and his ways, which were crude even for her. After The Heat's On (1943), Mae took a respite from the film world, mainly because the censors were getting stricter. She decided she would be able to have greater expression in her work if she went back to the stage. Mae continued to be a success there. When censorship began to end in the 1960s, she returned to film work in 1970's Myra Breckinridge (1970). Her last film was 1978's Sextette (1978). Mae suffered a series of strokes which finally resulted in her death at age 87 on November 22, 1980, in Hollywood, California. She was buried in New York. The actress, who only appeared in 12 films in 46 years, had a powerful impact on us. There was no doubt she was way ahead of her time with her sexual innuendos and how she made fun of a puritanical society. She did a lot to bring it out of the closet and perhaps we should be grateful for that.IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson
|Frank Wallace||(11 April 1911 - 23 July 1942) (divorced)|
After two years of denying that she had ever been married, West admitted in a reply to a legal interrogatory in 1937 that she and Frank Wallace had married in 1911. During her divorce trial in 1942, she testified that they had lived together only "several weeks".
According to actor Tony Curtis, her famous walk originated while beginning her career as a stage actress. Special six-inch platforms were attached to her shoes to increase the height of her stage presence. Her walk literally was "one foot at a time."
During World War II, US Navy and Army pilots and crewmen in the Pacific named their inflatable life vests after her, supposedly because of her well-endowed attributes. The term "Mae West" for a life jacket continues to this day.
Appears on sleeve of The Beatles "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". West at first declined to be pictured on the cover ("What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?!"), but reconsidered when the Beatles sent her a handwritten personal request.
Former Beatle Ringo Starr appeared with West in Sextette (1978). He was unpleasantly surprised at first, at all the attention given her on the set (usually reserved for pop stars like The Beatles), but came to admire West during the shoot, and praised her afterwards.
Is sometimes credited with originating the Shimmy (a once-popular dance).
Was banned from NBC Radio after a guest appearance in 1937 with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy that was loaded with flirtatious dialogue and double-entendres. She returned to the network as a guest on the "Perry Como Show" in 1949.
She was famous for her morning enemas, which she claimed made her skin like silk and left her "smelling sweet at both ends". On the set of her last film Sextette (1978), co-star Tony Curtis claimed that she was given an enema after being made up, at approximately 11:00 in the morning, as the last step of her preparations before going before the camera.
According to psychic Kenny Kingston, she wrote all her plays while in a trance.
Her films are credited with single-handedly saving failing and debt-ridden Paramount Pictures from bankruptcy in the early 1930s.
Was named #15 Actress on The American Film Institutes 50 Greatest Screen Legends
At one point, her chauffeur was Jerry Orbach (who is best known for playing Detective Lennie Briscoe on all four "Law & Order" TV series.
One of the first women to consistently write the movies she starred in.
Playing opposite Ed Wynn in Arthur Hammerstein's "Sometime," with music by Rudolf Friml, she introduced the shimmy to the Broadway stage in 1918. The dance requires hardly any movement of the feet but continuous movement of the shoulders, torso and pelvis. She had seen the dance at black cafés in Chicago.
Once when she was scheduled to play a theater in New Haven, CT, the theater's management refused to let her go on because her act was too "risqué" and canceled the show. Disappointed Yale University students rioted and wrecked the theater.
Eldest of three children of John Patrick West, an occasional prizefighter and livery-stable owner, and Matilda Delker Doelger, a one-time corset and fashion model.
During World War II, Miss West's name was applied to various pieces of military equipment and was thus listed in Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition. The Royal Air Force named its inflatable life jackets "Mae Wests," and United States Army soldiers referred to twin-turreted combat tanks also as "Mae Wests."
Was not a smoker or a drinker.
Died apparently of natural causes in the wake of a mild stroke she suffered three months prior that left her speech impaired. Also suffered from diabetes the last 15 years of her life.
Her parents converted to Protestantism, although her mother was, by heritage, a Jewish Bavarian-German and her father was born Irish-Catholic.
Born Mary Jane West in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, she always considered herself half Jewish. Her mother, Matilda Decker Doelger, an immigrant from Munich, was Jewish. Her father, Jack West, a featherweight prizefighter called "Battling Jack" West and later a stable master, was Anglo-Irish.
Was at one point Hollywood's highest paid star.
Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí created one of his most iconic works influenced by her: "Mae West's Lips Sofa" (1937).
The Coca-Cola bottle was said to have been designed with Mae West's figure as inspiration.
There is a photo in fundamentalist preacher Billy Sunday's autobiography (circa 1932) of Billy Sunday and Mae West pouring out a bottle of beer into the river.
Sister of Beverly Arden.
Although critics thought that she and W.C. Fields worked well together on camera, West reputedly did not admire him.
In April 1927 West was convicted of "producing an immoral play", the title of which was Sex. She was sentenced to ten days in jail in New York City, but was given one day off for good behavior.
Critic George Jean Nathan once called her "The Statue of Libido.".
When W.C. Fields called her "My little broodmare," she almost hit him.
Guido Deiro claims that West married his father, Guido Deiro, in 1914 under an assumed name, Catherine Mae Belle West, and on the condition of secrecy. West left Deiro in 1916, and "divorced" him on 9 November 1920.
Singer Miss Beverly Arden, sister of Mae West.
It's better to be looked over than overlooked.
A hard man is good to find.
Men are my life, diamonds are my career!
When women go wrong, men go right after them!
When caught between two evils I generally pick the one I've never tried before.
When I'm good, I'm very good. But when I'm bad, I'm better.
Marriage is a great institution. I'm not ready for an institution.
It's not the man in your life that counts. It's the life in your man.
Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?
I believe in censorship. After all, I made a fortune out of it.
I only like two kinds of men: domestic and foreign.
Too much of a good thing is wonderful.
I'm no model lady. A model's just an imitation of the real thing.
Don't marry a man to reform him. That's what reform schools are for.
It's hard to be funny when you have to be clean.
I wrote the story myself. It's all about a girl who lost her reputation but never missed it.
It ain't sin if you crack a few laws now and then, just so long as you don't break any.
Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the footlights and the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is.
Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere else.
I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.
Ten men waiting for me at the door? Send one of them home, I'm tired.
On desire: Sex is an emotion in motion....love is what you make it and who you make it with.
I do all my writing in bed; everybody knows I do my best work there.
To err is human, but it feels divine.
Few men know how to kiss well. Fortunately, I've always had time to teach them.
I always save one boyfriend for a rainy day . . . and another in case it doesn't rain.
Why don't you come up sometime and see me? I'm home every evening . . . Come up, and I'll tell your fortune.
I freely chose the kind of life I led because I was convinced that a woman has as much right as a man to live the way she does if she does no actual harm to society.
The man I don't like doesn't exist.
I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.
It isn't what I do, but how I do it. It isn't what I say, but how I say it, and how I look when I do it and say it.
I'm not good and tired, just tired.
Men are easy to get but hard to keep.
[on style] It's all right for a perfect stranger to kiss your hand as long as he's perfect.
[on love] A man's kiss is his signature.
[on growth] He who hesitates is a damn fool.
A dame that knows the ropes isn't likely to get tied up.
My advice for those gals who think they have to take their clothes off to be a star is: baby, once you've boned, what's left to create an illusion? Let 'em wonder.I never believed in givin' 'em too much of me.
I'm my own original creation. I concentrate on myself most of the time. That's the only way a person can become a star in the true sense. I never wanted a love that meant surrender of my self-possession. I saw what it did to other people when they loved another person the way I loved myself, and I didn't want that problem. I had to stay in command of my career.
[on her popularity within the gay community] They're crazy about me 'cause I give 'em a chance to play. My character is sexy and with humor and they like to imitate me, the things I say, the way I say 'em, the way I move. It's easy for'em to imitate me 'cause the gestures are exaggerated, flamboyant, sexy, and that's what they want to look like, feel like. And I've stood up for 'em. They're good kids. I don't like the police abusin' 'em, and in New York I told 'em, 'When you're hittin' one of those guys, you're hittin' a woman, 'cause a born homosexual is a female in a male body.
|Night After Night (1932)||$50,000 for 10 weeks work|
|She Done Him Wrong (1933)||$130,000|
|I'm No Angel (1933)||$300,000|
|Belle of the Nineties (1934)||$400,000|
|Myra Breckinridge (1970)||$350,000 for 10 days work|
The comedy entitled "Sex" she wrote in 1926 revived in NY, off Broadway, Dec. 1999.
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