Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MAE WEST ALWAYS THE BEST : The Early Years : RARE MAE WEST PHOTOS AND CLIPPINGS (most from my own collection)

Shirley Temple and Mae West pinup  Look May 25 1937 (from my collection) 
Mae West dressed as a boy aged 15 in 1908. This photo probably started a lot of rumours
In her teens Mae West was striking
Mae West as a vamp variety performer in 1917
Mae West and her rarely seen sister Beverly (own collection)
Blondes have more fun
Mae West color magazine pinup (own collection)
Mae West vintage postcard (own collection)
Mae West as a lion tamer in I'm No Angel 1933 (own collection)
My favorite photo of Mae West (own collection)
This is a close 2nd favorite shot. 
Silver Screen Feb '35 (own collection)
Mae & Charlie McCarthy "Why don't you come up and play in my wood pile?" 
Posted by PicasaThere has been a lot of speculation over the years that Mae West may have actually been born male.
She was rarely photographed showing her legs, loved films set in the 'gay nineties' as that era suited her penchant for big hats, ample bosom, tiny waist and hourglass figure. Also Mae disliked being touched, was very discreet with her lovers, loved a prizefight or a black boxer as a lover. And yet Mae was tiny, she wore stacked shoes that had false bottoms on them, so when she walked, it was one balancing act.  Another unusual thing about Mae was she hated her masculine chin and jawline, and had them retouched in every photo. Mae made her first film at 40, so she wanted to look as good as possible in every photo. Her weight was always a problem, and being short in stature didn't help. So she always wore long dresses or trousers to cover her stacked heels.  In the late 40's it was reported Mae had died, then the papers said it was her brother who had died. Some people believe Mae's looks changed from the 50's onwards. Her brother was taller, but her sister Beverly was about the same height. and looked very similar. Very few photos exist of Mae with her sister Beverly. But her sister was at Mae's funeral in 1980, so it couldn't have been her pretending to be Mae all those years. It would be a fascinating rumour to believe, but there is no proof. Anyway, Raquel Welch loves to talk about working on the 1970 camp classic Myra Breckenridge with Mae, and on the dvd's commentary, she states at the time she noticed Mae's big hands, and thought she was a man. Raquel and Mae famously did not get on during filming. Mae insisted on being the only actress to wear white, so Raquel wore a pale blue tinted ruffle. But more about Myra in my next post on Mae's later years. For now enjoy some rare early shots of Mae in her vaudeville days, and some stunning shots through the 30's of Mae at her peak. 


Anonymous said...

Hello. I have just found your wonderful blog. Fabulous photos! I am very interested in Hollywood stars, and collect books and photos which feature lavish costumes of the Hollywood era, especially of Garbo and Dietrich. I also collect the movies which feature fabulous costumes, like Marie Antoinette, with Norma Shearer. I was particularly interested in your Mae West article. I had read the stories of Mae's changing appearance around the 1950's and had wondered myself if that was the original Mae, since her appearance had changed quite a bit. I have many books on Mae West with a lot of full color photos, but even so, I still can't figure out if that person who played Mae to the end of her life really was the original Mae. My books say that her sister, Beverly, was the exact same size, had a singing voice and went on tour with a Diamond Lil routine, so I felt it was not absolutely out of the question that her sister had perhaps replaced her. The main reason I think it's a possibility, is that Mae supported her entire family. She was a very wealthy woman from her investments. Only someone very close to Mae who had power of attorney to maintain Mae's apartment and so forth would have been able to carry that off after her supposed death. It remains for me one of the most interesting questions -- was Mae replaced? I also wonder, if Mae's body builders who she hired for her act in the 1950's, might have met the replacement, not the real one. But there were still people alive like George Raft, who knew the original Mae intimately, who she would occasionally be photographed with. For me, it remains a mystery. Thanks for such a great website.

Robbie said...

Hello and thanks for your comment. Two books you should look for are 'Mae West' by George Eells and Stanley Musgrove. (1982) And the very impressive 'Mae West : Empress of Sex' by Maurice Leonard (1991) Also try to collect original interviews and articles on Mae from vintage movie magazines like Photoplay. And read about people who were friends, like Marlene Dietrich, who was a friend during their days at Paramount, but not socially. I think those two actresses had a quiet respect for each other, both being older than the upcoming starlets at the time. Marlene socialised outside the studio with Dolores Del Rio and Errol Flynn's French actress wife Lily Damita.
The whole question about Mae being replaced by her sister would fathom out if Mae had remained a recluse, and not done anymore stage or film work. But from the late 40's on, Mae had a resurgence in her career with plays, and in the 50's with her Muscle Man Revue. Mae wasn't hiding from her old Hollywood friends either. She was photographed after her shows with several old stars like Talullah Bankhead and others. We have to consider this, because surely her sister wouldn't know all the stories, how she knew this star or that, and Beverly also would not have the talent Mae had, in her years in films, and prior to that on the vaudeville stage. Mae was a seasoned performer, she invented the 'Mae' character, wrote her own lines. Its difficult to believe anyone could step into that role and not be noticed. When we see drag performers do Mae, we see who does it well, and who does it superbly, but we always can tell its not the real Mae. But who knows…. Hollywood's real life stories have always been more interesting than the fabricated lives the studios wrote for their stars. A lot more is coming out now about stars like Liberace, and other stars who had secrets hidden from the public. Its all so fascinating too. But also we need to be able to fathom through a lot of books that are just muck raking and made up. Some authors now pretend they interviewed certain stars, and then I see the stars secretary saying in an Amazon review, this author did not. So there are new books out there that are totally fabricated. Reading from reliable authors with their sources listed in the back is the best option. Or reading a few biographies on one person, to cross check the facts, is another. I was most annoyed to read recently that Esther Williams apologized for saying in her book that Jeff Chandler had been a cross dresser. Before Esther passed away, she said the book publishers had asked her to spice her autobiography up. But what a sad way to do it? Robbie.