Becoming Mae West
Mae West loved big cities, form-fitting clothes, lipstick, jazz, sex in taxis, intrigue, gun-toting bootleggers, boxers lathered in sweat, and cops ... Show synopsis Mae West loved big cities, form-fitting clothes, lipstick, jazz, sex in taxis, intrigue, gun-toting bootleggers, boxers lathered in sweat, and cops who read her the riot act. Born in Brooklyn in 1893, she was the child of a former bare-knuckles boxer and an immigrant whose aspirations made her a classic stage mother. Baby Mae was performing by age five; by the time she was twenty, she was a seasoned trouper on the Keith vaudeville circuit and had begun to write her own material. When prudery squelched her as a vaudeville headline, she moved to the more cosmopolitan legitimate stage. Here, too, censors tried to shut her down, but the headlines sparked by obscenity trials for her plays Sex and The Pleasure Man catapulted her instead to box office success and Hollywood. There, in 1933, she was credited with restoring a sick box office and reviving the moribund Paramount Studio. But when bluenoses struck once again, this time the formidable Hays Office, her career suffered a blow from which it would never completely recover. This first intensive biography of Mae West focuses not on the kitsch of her later years but rather on the dynamic, creative, sexually adventurous young woman who took aggressive control of her own performances and in the process made her face and form among the world's most famous. It is also a window on the history of American urban entertainment, and especially on its love-hate relationship with sex.