"It is better to be looked over than overlooked."
Happy birthday Mae West!
Mae West (August 17, 1893—November 22, 1980) was an American stage, film, and television actress and writer. She is remembered as the sex symbol who challenged the standards of morality in Hollywood. Some of her films include She Done Him Wrong (1933), I'm No Angel (1933), Belle of the Nineties (1934), and Klondike Annie (1935).
West was born in Brooklyn, New York to John Patrick West and Matilda "Tillie" Doelger. As a child, West often garnered the attention of crowds. At seven, she began appearing in amateur shows. She performed under various aliases throughout her childhood, including "Baby Mae" and "Jane Mast." She was precocious, partially as a result of the fact that her mother encouraged all of her rambunctious behavior.
At 14, West began performing professionally in Vaudeville with the Hal Claredon Stock Company. (Image source)
Some time after, West met Frank Wallace. By this time, West's mother was heavily involved in her career and saw an opportunity with Wallace, who was moving up as a singer-dancer. After just a few week's rehearsal, the two ventured out on the burlesque circuit around the country. Though West had affairs with several of the men she encountered on tour, it is alleged that she was convinced by an older cast member to marry Wallace, who could offer her protection and social validation, and who had proposed to her several times. The two were married in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The act and the marriage was broken up soon after they returned to New York.
By the time she was 18, she appeared in the Broadway show A La Broadway. In spite of the show's lack of success, West was singled out as an up-and-comer by The New York Times, and soon she had another part in Vera Violetta.
In 1918, West got a part in Sometime. Her character was the first of many that West reworked to be more brazen or otherwise better suit her own personality.
In 1926, West wrote, directed, and starred in her own Broadway show called Sex. Though it was a hit at the box office, critics panned it, and West was arrested on moral charges. She served eight days on Welfare Island. It is said that she dined with the Warden and his wife during this period, and the overall experience did more to help her career than hurt it. West continued to write plays for the next several years including The Wicked Age, Pleasure Man, and The Constant Sinner.
By 1932, West was offered a contract with Paramount Pictures. She appeared in a small role in Night after Night (1932). She went on to appear in She Done Him Wrong (1933) I'm No Angel (1933), Belle of the Nineties (1934), Klondike Annie (1935), Go West, Young Man (1936), My Little Chickadee (1940), and many others. Her films dealt with controversial content, such as sex, religion, and other themes that questioned conventional standards of morality. This aroused disdain from organizations like the Motion Picture Production Code, who began to meticulously enforce a rule that scripts had to be pre-approved. (Image source)
West encountered the same challenges to her craft when she appeared on radio. In 1937, she appeared on Edgar Bergen's The Chase and Sanborn Hour. NBC received letters condemning the show as indecent and immoral, and as a result, West was banned from appearing on any more of their programs.
In 1966, West recorded two rock and roll albums, Way Out West and Wild Christmas.
She appeared in a few films between the 1950s and 1970s, and also had a variety show for three years, but was otherwise retired. In 1970, she appeared in Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge. In 1976, she made Sextette, which had been adapted from a play she had written for the stage. Both Myra Breckinridge and Sextette became cult hits.
- Birthday Date: Sunday, 17 August 2014