Courting Mae West

The play "COURTING MAE WEST: Sex, Censorship & Secrets" is based on true events during the 1920s when actress MAE WEST was arrested and jailed in New York City for trying to stage two gay plays on Broadway. Maybe she broke the law - - but the LAW couldn't break HER!

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mae West: Sepia

Among several intriguing studies on the American actress MAE WEST there is one written by Marybeth Hamilton, who holds a doctorate in history from Princeton University and teaches American History at Birkbeck College, University of London.
• • In When I'm Bad, I'm Better, Marybeth Hamilton discusses how Mae West's former lover George Raft, who was becoming a matinee idol in Hollywood during 1932, was instrumental in getting Mae a cameo role as Maudie Triplett, his blowsy ex-girlfriend in "Night After Night." Hamilton also explains how Mae was aghast at being cast in such a colorless bit part and then went on to revise her dialogue and win all the applause. "If nothing else," writes Hamilton, "[Mae West] showed Paramount that they were dealing with an expert scene stealer."
• • It is not surprising that Marybeth Hamilton mentions the hatcheck girl's line: "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!" and Maudie Triplett's famous comeback: "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie!" [Mae borrowed the routine from her diamond-draped pal Texas Guinan.]
• • What was left unsaid in this study (and other Mae West books) about that film scene?
• • Curiously, no writer ever mentions that Paramount made the 21-year-old actress Patricia Farley [born 22 August 1911] play the role of the hatcheck girl in blackface.
• • Take a peek. Do you remember the sepia-skinned beauty in the scene or not? How come no one ever mentions the deliberately darkened skin? Why not?
• • Here's another question: which house in the West 50s inspired the plot of "Night After Night" [originally titled "Number 55"]? Which heiress was raised in that stately residence? Which Pulitzer Prize-winner wrote the short story that Hollywood adapted for the screenplay? Which gangster met his death on the marble staircase?
• • Since Mae West was known to champion dark-skinned actors in her Broadway projects, it was probably assumed that the hatcheck girl in this scene was one more sepia beauty out of Harlem.
• • Production on "Night After Night" began in August 1932.

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• • Photo: Mae West
• • Patricia Farley • • 1932 • •

Mae West.

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