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Mae West

Mae West

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My Little Chickadee DVD When Flower Belle Lee is seen embracing a masked bandit, her perfect reputation... more info $19.98was $19.98 Buy Now

She Done Him Wrong DVD In her first starring role, the bawdy Mae West tries to seduce a charmingly... more info $14.98was $14.98 Buy Now

Also Known As: Jane Mast, Mary Jane West Died: November 22, 1980
Born: August 17, 1892 Cause of Death: complications following a stroke
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA Profession: comedian, actor, singer, vaudevillian, playwright, screenwriter, burlesque performer, author

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

When she was good, she was very good. But when she was bad, she made film history. Whether making films, writing plays or flirting with the camera, Mae West was undisputedly the most controversial sex siren of her time. At 33 years old, she wrote, produced, directed and starred in her first Broadway play entitled "Sex," a 1926 production deemed so obscene that she landed in jail for it. She was the queen of double entendres on and off screen, delivering some of the best-remembered quips in movie history. In "She Done Him Wrong" (1933), West delivered one of the most quoted lines in movie history, "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

When she was good, she was very good. But when she was bad, she made film history. Whether making films, writing plays or flirting with the camera, Mae West was undisputedly the most controversial sex siren of her time. At 33 years old, she wrote, produced, directed and starred in her first Broadway play entitled "Sex," a 1926 production deemed so obscene that she landed in jail for it. She was the queen of double entendres on and off screen, delivering some of the best-remembered quips in movie history. In "She Done Him Wrong" (1933), West delivered one of the most quoted lines in movie history, "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?"

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Wisecracks (1991) Herself (Archival Footage)
2.
 Sextette (1978) Marlo Manners
3.
 It's Showtime (1976) Herself
4.
 Myra Breckinridge (1970) Leticia
5.
 Myra Breckinridge (1970) Leticia
6.
 The Heat's On (1943) Fay Lawrence
7.
 My Little Chickadee (1940) Flower Belle Lee
8.
 Every Day's a Holiday (1938) Peaches O'Day
9.
 Klondike Annie (1936) [Rose Carleton] The Frisco Doll
10.
 Go West Young Man (1936) Mavis Arden
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1897:
Vaudeville debut at age six doing a song and dance for Brooklyn's Royal Theatre's amateur night; appeared in "Little Nell the Marchioness"
:
Joined the Hal Clarendon Stock Company based at Brooklyn's Gotham Theatre for four years
:
Became strong woman in a Coney Island acrobatic act
:
Toured vaudeville circuit with William Hogan at age fifteen
1911:
Broadway debut in "A la Broadway" at Folies Bergere dinner theater
1913:
Appeared with a vaudeville headliner, billed as "The Baby Vamp", with sister Beverly on the Loew's circuit
1920:
Made screen test for lead opposite Jack Dempsey in Pathe serial, "Daredevil Jack" (didn't get role)
1926:
Broadway writing, directing and producing debut (also actress), "Sex"; play shut down by police and West was sentenced to served ten days in jail at Blackwell's Island and fined $500 on obscenity charges (she was released after eight days); wrote play under pseudonym Jane Mast
:
Staged plays including "The Drag" (dealing with homosexuality), for which she was again arrested, "Catherine Was Great"
1928:
Had a hit play on Broadway with "Diamond Lil", which she both wrote and starred in
1932:
Signed with Paramount
1932:
Film acting debut in prominent supporting role in "Night After Night", starring George Raft
1933:
Starred in "She Done Him Wrong," film adaptation of own play, "Diamond Lil" (the industry's Hays Office wouldn't let Paramount keep the play's original title, given its spicy reputation)
1933:
Screenwriting debut (also actress), "I'm No Angel"
1933:
Made exhibitors boxoffice poll of top ten stars two years in a row
1935:
Highest paid woman in the US, earning $480,833 that year
1937:
Controversy over suggestive witticisms on NBC radio's "Chase and Sanborn Hour", starring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy kept West off airwaves for 12 years
1943:
Last film for over 25 years, "The Heat's On"
:
Staged various revivals of "Diamond Lil" in Europe and the United States and also performed a nightclub concert act in the 1950s featuring musclemen
1961:
Last stage appearance, "Sextette" at the Edgewater Beach Playhouse, opposite Jack LaRue
1970:
Made film comeback at age 78 in film "Myra Breckinridge" (reported earned $350,000 for ten-days shooting; wrote her own scenes)
1978:
Final film, lead in "Sextette"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"Without doubt, one of the most unique fabrications of the twentieth century was the show business phenomenon known as Mae West. She was assertive in an age when women were supposed to be submissive; she was openly bawdy when decorum was the order of the day. With her buxom hour-glass figure and her lascivious frame of reference, she shocked, intrigued, captivated, and amused many generations of fans. For over seven decades, she was an active performer, shrewdly promoting what she knew and understood best--Miss Mae West." --James Robert Parish and Michael R. Pitts ("Hollywood Songsters" 1991)

"She's a plumbers idea of Cleopatra!" --quote attributed to W C Fields

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Frank Wallace. Jazz singer. Married on April 11, 1911 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; separated a few months after marriage; divorced in 1943.
companion:
Owney Madden. Gangster. Co-owner of The Cotton Club.
companion:
Paul Novak. Appeared in chorus of West's nightclub act in the 1950s; together from c. 1954 until her death; died of prostate cancer on July 14, 1999 at age 76.

Family close complete family listing

father:
John Patrick West. Heavyweight boxer.
mother:
Matilda West. Corset designer. German immigrant.
sister:
Mildred West. Younger sister.
brother:
John Patrick West II. Younger brother.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Diamond Lil"
"The Constant Sinner"
"Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It"
"Mae West on Sex, Health, and ESP"
"Pleasure Man"
"Mae West: A Bio-Bibliography" Greenwood Press
"Becoming Mae West" Farrar, Straus & Giroux
"Mae West: An Icon in Black and White" Oxford University Press
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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