Happy Birthday, Mae!
Mary Jane West was born in Brooklyn, New York, on August 17, 1893, to parents involved in prizefighting and vaudeville, "Battling Jack" West and Matilda Doelger. 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.
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.
...as Letitia Van Allen in Myra Breckinridge, 1970.
Mae as Letitia Van Allen in Myra Breckinridge, posing in the agent's infamous white office.
Mae's final film, Sextette, based on her early 20th century play. Former Mr. America Reg Lewis was an alumnus of West's 1954 Las Vegas act
(¸.•´♥ Tristan ♥