She would joke “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.” The American Film Institute would, for her contribution to American cinema, name her the fifteenth greatest female star of classic American cinema.
Mae West Fact Sheet: The following short biography and fact sheet provides interesting facts about the life, times and history of Mae West.
Mae West Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1893 - 1980 *** Full Name: Mary Jane West *** Nickname: Mae *** Occupation: American Actress, Screenwriter and Playwright *** Date of Birth: Mae West was born on August 17th 1893 *** Place of Birth: Mae West was born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, United States *** Family background: Her father was John Patrick West and her mother was Mitilda “Tillie” Delker. Her mother’s parents had originated from Barvaria and had immigrated to America where the settled down and raised their children. Her father had been a prize-fighter known as “Battlin’ Jack West” and later he would work as a “special policeman”. In time he would own his own private investigation agency. Her mother had been a model of corsets and fashion. Her father’s parents were of Irish Catholic and English-Scottish descent *** Early life and childhood: She grew up with a sister Mildred Katherine West nicknamed Beverley and her brother John Edwin West, II *** Education: Mae West attended school locally ***
Mae West Fact 1: Mae West was born on August 17th 1893 and during the late 19th century period in history when there were world changing events happening including the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Cold War.
Mae West Fact 2: Her earliest performance was given as a small child of around five years old at a church social.
Mae West Fact 3: She began performing regularly in amateur shows from around seven and would often win local talent contests.
Mae West Fact 4: At the age of fourteen she began professionally performing in vaudeville for the Hal Clarendon Stock Company in 1907.
Mae West Fact 5: She had various stage names, the earliest of which was Baby Mae, followed by Jane Mast.
Mae West Fact 6: 1911 would see her debut on Broadway in a revue A La Broadway. The show closed after just eight performances.
Mae West Fact 7: The following year the New York Times wrote of her that a “girl name Mae West, hitherto unknown, pleased by her grotesquerie and snappy way of singing and dancing.”
Mae West Fact 8: Her next appearance would be in Vera Violetta which also included the wonderful Al Jolson.
Mae West Fact 9: As far has her family was concerned the only support she received was from her mother, the rest, including her grandmother and aunt disapproved.
Mae West Fact 10: She began writing her own material, together with producing and directing her fist play called Sex would find the theatre raided and West arrested and found guilty of morals charges for which she was sentenced to ten days in prison where she had dinner with the warden and his wife. This incident was much publicized and would actually do her career more good than harm.
Mae West Fact 11: One of her most successful productions and one which she periodically revived and always performed well as Diamond Lil, originally released in 1928.
Mae West Fact 12: Paramount Pictures would offer her a contract in 1932 although she was already approaching forty years of age, although she would never actually admit to her age. Her debut film Night After Night stared George Raft and she was not happy with the very small part she had been given but was soon happier when given permission to rewrite her acts.
Mae West Fact 13: In 1933 she stared in She Done Him Wrong and co-starred Cary Grant in his first major role which was a huge boost for his career. Paramount at the time were struggling financially and this film was not only a box office success but was also nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Mae West Fact 14: With her career waning slightly during the late 1930’s she agreed to appear on a popular radio show, The Chase and Sanborn Hour featuring ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. Flirting up a storm with Charlie McCarthy, Bergan’s dummy, she referred to Charlie as “all wood and a yard long” in her usual risqué style.
Mae West Fact 15: Her style of humor together with her sexual innuendo did not go down particular well on radio and many complaints from women’s groups and Catholic communities complained.
Mae West Fact 16: She continued to perform although not everything was a success. By 1950 she was offered the part of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard but turned it down.
Mae West Fact 17: In 1958 at the Academy Awards she appeared to sign a duet with Rock Hudson, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.
Mae West Fact 18: Shortly after this she wrote and released an autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It, it became a best seller.
Mae West Fact 19: Towards the end of her career she made the rare appearance , in 1960 she made a guest appearance on The Red Skelton Show and in 1964 she appeared in Mister Ed, a popular TV sitcom.
Mae West Fact 20: Mae West, having suffered two strokes and developed pneumonia but have spent some time in hospital she was recovered enough to go home where on November 22nd 1980 aged eighty seven years, she died. Her body was transported back to Brooklyn where she was entombed in the family crypt to be joined by the last remaining member of her immediate family, her sister Beverley.
Influence & Legacy: She had an extraordinary career and would even be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.