New Mae West Book: She Always Knew How

mae west Pictures, Images and Photos

I figure Bettie Page fans would also be Mae West fans, especially since Mae West dealt more directly and self-consciously with the issues of sexual equality and sexual power.

Here's what Simon & Schuster has to say about Charlotte Chandler's new bio, based on interviews conducted with Mae in the 80's:

Actress, playwright, screenwriter, and iconic sex symbol Mae West was born in New York in 1893. She created a scandal -- and a sensation -- on Broadway with her play Sex in 1926. Convicted of obscenity, she was sentenced to ten days in prison. She went to jail a convict and emerged a star. Her next play, Diamond Lil, was a smash, and she would play the role of Diamond Lil in different variations for virtually her entire film career.

In Hollywood she played opposite George Raft, Cary Grant (in one of his first starring roles), and W. C. Fields, among others. She was the number one box-office attraction during the 1930s and saved Paramount Studios from bankruptcy. Her films included some notorious one-liners -- which she wrote herself -- that have become part of Hollywood lore: from "too much of a good thing can be wonderful" to "When I'm good, I'm very good. When I'm bad, I'm better." Her risqué remarks got her banned from radio for a dozen years, but behind the clever quips was Mae's deep desire, decades before the word "feminism" was in the news, to see women treated equally with men. She saw through the double standard of the time that permitted men to do things that women would be ruined for doing.

Her cause was sexual equality, and she was shrewd enough to know that it was perhaps the ultimate battleground, the most difficult cause of all. In addition to her extensive interviews of Mae West, Chandler also spoke with actors and directors who worked with and knew the star, the man with whom she lived for the last twenty-seven years of her life, as well as her closest assistant at the end of her life. Their comments and insights enrich this fascinating book. She Always Knew How captures the voice and spirit of this unique actress as no other biography ever has.

And here's a review for Publishers Weekly:
She Always Knew How: Mae West, a Personal Biography Charlotte Chandler. Simon & Schuster, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4165-7909-0

...West carefully constructed and guarded the image of her personality as a woman who enjoyed sex at a time when “skirts had to cover ankles.” She contended she was “never vulgar. The word for me was suggestive.”

Sound familiar? Mae West definitely set the stage for Bettie Page. I think I'd like to learn more about her.


Mae West NYC said...

Honey, oh, please, please, please come up and see Mae - - MaeWest.blogspot.com