Mae West made some of the raciest films of the studio era, single-handedly necessitating the instigation of censorship in the motion picture industry. This voluptuous blonde almost exclusively played over-sexed madams on screen, but her golden tresses did nothing to conceal the capacity of West's active mind.
This post is written in conjunction with Classic Chops - Blonde Bombshells, hosted by The LAMB.
Did you know...?
Mae West was one of the earliest supporters of both a women's liberation and a homophile movement.
West was a prolific writer. She wrote the screenplays for ten of the 13 films she made. She also penned the plays "Sex," "The Drag," and "The Pleasure Man." Her books include an autobiography Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It and three novels: The Constant Sinner (1949), She Done Him Wrong (1932), and On Sex, Health, and E.S.P. (1975).
In addition to writing and acting, West also recorded a number of musical albums, including two rock and roll records, Way Out West and Wild Christmas. I have to be honest, she's not half bad!
It would appear sex was West's only vice - she neither drank nor smoke. There was a clause in her contract when working with W.C. Fields in MY LITTLE CHICKADEE (1940) that he be removed from the set if he was inebriated. (TCM Leading Couples)
By 1935, Mae West was America's highest-payed woman. The only other person earning more at the time was newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. (TCM Leading Ladies)
West claims responsibility for discovering Cary Grant. West chose Grant to play her lead in his first ever picture, SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933) and would use him again that year in I'M NO ANGEL (1933). She supposedly told studio execs, "If this guy can talk, I'll take him" (Cavett).
West was arrested for her first project, a play entitled "Sex" (1926) which she wrote, produced, directed, and played the starring role. The play ran almost 400 performances before being raided by police. West served ten days for the obscenity charge, but insisted on wearing her own underwear while incarcerated.
Mae West Quotables
As with Shakespeare, one reads Mae West's one-liners and thinks, "So that's where that came from!" If you're ever searching for a good pick-up line, ladies, Mae West is a good go-to gal.
"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."
"[The gay community] are 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."
"Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me."
"A hard man is good to find."
"When women go wrong, men go right after them."
"Marriage is a great institution. I'm not ready for an institution."
"I believe in censorship. After all, I made a fortune out of it."
"Don't marry a man to reform him. That's what reform schools are for."
"I wrote that story myself. It's about a girl who lost her reputation and never missed it."
"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."
"A dame that knows the ropes isn't likely to get tied up." (Sounds like as good an argument for sex education as I've ever heard!)