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Mae West


laurelnhardy
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Mae West must be one of those actresses that you either really love or don't like at all.

I've heard people say that they thought she was great.

I had never watched any of her movies until about a month ago when TCM showed one,

"My Little Chickadee", I think it was. I started watching it because of W.C

Fields. I always thought he was an "Ok" actor. I only made it through about half of the

movie because I could hardly stand watching Mae West. I thought she was terrible.

I thought maybe it was just that particular roll, so I gave her another look in "I'm No Angel".

She's no better in it than she was in "...Chickadee".

I don't see what the big fuss was with her. Her acting is bad, her singing is terrible, her voice is annoying, she was overweight (compared to other actresses), and her "sexy" walk looked more like she needed a hip replacement or at least a tube of Preperation H.

I guess they all couldn't be Carol Landis', Bonita Granvilles, Myrna Loys, and Priscilla Lanes.

I know some of you will agree with me and others will say that I'm totally wrong about her.

It's just my 2¢ worth.

 

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Mae West is not my favorite actor either, but she sure had some great sayings. I love Cary Grant and just watched them in "I'm no angel". Maybe I just imagined this, but it sure seemed like Cary Grant was really enjoying Mae West's quips during that movie. Does anyone know or read about those two when this movie was being made? Did they become great friends..or more?

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Mae West is not my favorite actor either, but she sure had some great sayings. I love Cary Grant and just watched them in "I'm no angel". Maybe I just imagined this, but it sure seemed like Cary Grant was really enjoying Mae West's quips during that movie. Does anyone know or read about those two when this movie was being made? Did they become great friends..or more?

I think they got along well at first and she also did a film with his boyfriend Randolph Scott. But later she started taking credit for discovering Grant and he resented it.

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I don't really think of Mae West, or W.C. Fields, in terms of "good actors." They were comedians, and Mae's dialogue and persona were her perks, neverminding her actual acting ability, singing or image. My Little Chickadee was the first Mae West film I remember seeing, and I didn't like it very much. I found it quite unfunny by W.C. Fields standards, but I thought Mae was the best thing about the film. Just watching her go through the rounds made me laugh, and she wears some of the most eye-popping outfits in that film. She was a hoot, and I think that's all she was really supposed to be. But I've heard pretty much every movie comic dismissed as "annoying," it's a matter of taste.

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I don't really think of Mae West, or W.C. Fields, in terms of "good actors." They were comedians, and Mae's dialogue and persona were her perks, neverminding her actual acting ability, singing or image. My Little Chickadee was the first Mae West film I remember seeing, and I didn't like it very much. I found it quite unfunny by W.C. Fields standards, but I thought Mae was the best thing about the film. Just watching her go through the rounds made me laugh, and she wears some of the most eye-popping outfits in that film. She was a hoot, and I think that's all she was really supposed to be. But I've heard pretty much every movie comic dismissed as "annoying," it's a matter of taste.

 

While I agree that almost every movie comic can be dismissed as annoying,  to me it does relate to if they are actors first and comics second.    A comic that in movies is just mostly being themselves (their comic persona),  can become annoying if the director doesn't use them well.  e.g. when this type of comic 'actor' has too much on screen time or is asked to do things beyond their ability.

 

But if one has the acting chops as well as being funny  a director can untilize them in scenes that go beyond their comic persona.

 

Jean Arthur and Irene Dunne,  and to a lesser degree, Carole Lombard,  fit this IMO.

 

Betty Hutton is someone I really enjoy,  but I like her in the movies where she more of a supporting players then the star.

 

I should also add,  that for women comics being good looking helps.   Mae West doesn't cut it in this area. 

 

(for men comics looking 'strange' appears to help their act).

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I should also add,  that for women comics being good looking helps.   Mae West doesn't cut it in this area. 

 

That's very disheartening to hear. Thank goodness not all male comics had to look like Cary Grant, it would have been a much blander world...

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That's very disheartening to hear. Thank goodness not all male comics had to look like Cary Grant, it would have been a much blander world...

 

I agree that it is disheartening to hear (I assume the women have to have looks part) but that sadly is just the general nature of visual media.     Look at the Marx brothers.   The best looking one, Zeppo,  was really never a part of the act.  

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I don't really think of Mae West, or W.C. Fields, in terms of "good actors." They were comedians, and Mae's dialogue and persona were her perks, neverminding her actual acting ability, singing or image. My Little Chickadee was the first Mae West film I remember seeing, and I didn't like it very much. I found it quite unfunny by W.C. Fields standards, but I thought Mae was the best thing about the film. Just watching her go through the rounds made me laugh, and she wears some of the most eye-popping outfits in that film. She was a hoot, and I think that's all she was really supposed to be. But I've heard pretty much every movie comic dismissed as "annoying," it's a matter of taste.

Although they received equal credit for the screenplay, West wrote nearly all of the film, which helps explain why she comes off best and the film is below normal Fields standards.

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I'm a big fan of Mae West. I think she's sort of in her own category, which I won't try to define. I also love that old New York aspect to many of her films. I'm just sorry that the focus always seems to be on two of her films -- I'm No Angel, which was on this weekend and will be on again in December; and She Done Him Wrong, which will be on in December. I love them both, but I wish they would show the others, particularly my favorite, Every Day's a Holiday; and Klondike Annie.

 

Apart from David Copperfield and The Old Fashioned Way (and that's mostly for Jan Duggan's song and The Drunkard scenes), I'm not a fan of W.C. Fields.

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I agree that it is disheartening to hear (I assume the women have to have looks part) but that sadly is just the general nature of visual media.     Look at the Marx brothers.   The best looking one, Zeppo,  was really never a part of the act.  

 

And yet I think I heard that Zeppo was actually a really funny guy off the camera, but didn't get to be funny in the act because he had to play the useless romantic part. I guess he just didn't fit. There you have it, even good looking people get the short end of the stick when they don't fit in. :rolleyes:

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And yet I think I heard that Zeppo was actually a really funny guy off the camera, but didn't get to be funny in the act because he had to play the useless romantic part. I guess he just didn't fit. There you have it, even good looking people get the short end of the stick when they don't fit in. :rolleyes:

Zeppo had to fill in for Groucho once during a performance of Animal Crackers on Broadway, and no one knew the difference. He is interviewed in the book The Marx Brothers Scrapbook, and his frustration at not being allowed to develop his own comedic persona is painfully obvious.

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Zeppo had to fill in for Groucho once during a performance of Animal Crackers on Broadway, and no one knew the difference. He is interviewed in the book The Marx Brothers Scrapbook, and his frustration at not being allowed to develop his own comedic persona is painfully obvious.

 

Zeppo was the hot Marx brother. Seriously, Groucho got the smarts; Harpo got the musical ability; I'm sure Chico had the market cornered on some positive trait, but damn: Zeppo got the looks (and yet you can still see the resemblance between him and the others.)

 

wish I "had permission" to post pics....

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And yet I think I heard that Zeppo was actually a really funny guy off the camera, but didn't get to be funny in the act because he had to play the useless romantic part. I guess he just didn't fit. There you have it, even good looking people get the short end of the stick when they don't fit in. :rolleyes:

 

I assume that funny was in all of the brothers genes!    But really I wonder if looking odd or strange enhanced a male comic's public appeal while for women they have to mostly be thin and cute.   

 

Hey,  great picture of Everett Horton.    I'm glad his career wasn't impacted by the Production Code.  That would have been a lost.  He was a great addition to so many films. 

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Zeppo had to fill in for Groucho once during a performance of Animal Crackers on Broadway, and no one knew the difference. He is interviewed in the book The Marx Brothers Scrapbook, and his frustration at not being allowed to develop his own comedic persona is painfully obvious.

 

Haha! I never heard that, thanks for the info. It's really too bad. I wonder why they didn't think a romantic lead could be funny, too? (Or better yet, why they thought they needed a romantic lead at all. I see no reason he had to be the nonentity he ended up being...)

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Haha! I never heard that, thanks for the info. It's really too bad. I wonder why they didn't think a romantic lead could be funny, too? (Or better yet, why they thought they needed a romantic lead at all. I see no reason he had to be the nonentity he ended up being...)

 

a nonentity on the screen maybe, but in real life he was perhaps the most successful of all the Marx Brothers at business- he became a very wealthy real estate man....(and I think lived a longer than Chico and Harpo and didn't have the sad end that Groucho did.)

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Zeppo was the hot Marx brother. Seriously, Groucho got the smarts; Harpo got the musical ability; I'm sure Chico had the market cornered on some positive trait, but damn: Zeppo got the looks (and yet you can still see the resemblance between him and the others.)

 

wish I "had permission" to post pics....

 

I'd probably say that Chico had the musical ability. Harpo was great, but you could see him trying. Chico didn't have to go out of character to play good, his piano was funny, too.

 

Here's a pic of the Marx Brothers looking young and natural. The only one I instantly knew was Harpo, hah.

marxbrothersearly.jpg

 

P.S, yeah, I meant nonentity on the screen. I wasn't gonna accuse the guy of actually being a nonentity all the time, hah.

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I understand people having an issue with Mae's singing and her "acting"- but I am a little annoyed at the disparaging comments about her figure. she was, frankly, an average sized woman for her height (not much over five feet I think) and age (she was over 40 when she made her first film.) when it comes to figures, Mae West is a lot closer to the norm than most other actresses and her figure was no impediment to how attractive she was or what kind of performer she was.

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I'd probably say that Chico had the musical ability. Harpo was great, but you could see him trying. Chico didn't have to go out of character to play good, his piano was funny, too.

 

Here's a pic of the Marx Brothers looking young and natural. The only one I instantly knew was Harpo, hah.

marxbrothersearly.jpg

 

 

I forgot about Chico and the piano.

Yikes! The Dionne Quints had less of a resemblance to one another than those four did!

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Hey,  great picture of Everett Horton.    I'm glad his career wasn't impacted by the Production Code.  That would have been a lost.  He was a great addition to so many films. 

 

Thanks, but if you're referring to my avatar picture, it is actually of Jack Buchanan. He was a popular musical comic in Britain, but known across the pond mostly for The Band Wagon.

 

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I understand people having an issue with Mae's singing and her "acting"- but I am a little annoyed at the disparaging comments about her figure. she was, frankly, an average sized woman for her height (not much over five feet I think) and age (she was over 40 when she made her first film.) when it comes to figures, Mae West is a lot closer to the norm than most other actresses and her figure was no impediment to how attractive she was or what kind of performer she was.

 

Any disparaging comments related to her figure relate to the standard Hollywood 'required' for most actresses.

 

It is a complement to West's talent that Hollywood build movies around an average sized 40 plus year old women. 

 

Just like with Hollywood casting whites for non-white roles,  we didn't make these rules.   We just comment on them.

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One thing that I did find quite interesting about I'm No Angel was Mae's relationship with her maids (who were, of course, all black.) There was a camaraderie with them that I don't think would've been tolerated in a post-code film, similar to the relationship that Stanwyck has with her traveling companion and eventual maid in Baby Face and Jean Harlow had with Hattie McDaniell in China Seas .

 

Yes, they are servants; and yes, a few of their lines were degrading- but at the same time, one got a sense that if they were not exactly on equal footing with their employer, then there was a mutual understanding and degree of freedom at least. (of course, this might also have been done to show the protagonists  were supposedly "low" women; ultimately it makes them more likeable.)

 

not until possibly Gone with the Wind would the crossing of the line between "servant" and "master" (for lack of better terms) be crossed in such a fashion.

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I understand people having an issue with Mae's singing and her "acting"- but I am a little annoyed at the disparaging comments about her figure.

 

I agree with you. But I kind of liked her singing. At least that's one thing she had over on Marlene Dietrich, hah.

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  • 2 weeks later...

in this generation, and in some circles she would be termed a 'pawg'.

i caught a little bit of 'she done him wrong' and really got a good glimpse of cary grant.

he definitely had facial work done over the years.

i always thought he was a natural 'pretty boy'.

 

I don't see what the big fuss was with her. Her acting is bad, her singing is terrible, her voice is annoying, she was overweight (compared to other actresses)...
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i've never liked fields; i think he's a pig.

 

i'll never watch any film where he's in the starring role.

 

Apart from David Copperfield and The Old Fashioned Way (and that's mostly for Jan Duggan's song and The Drunkard scenes), I'm not a fan of W.C. Fields.
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Mae West must be one of those actresses that you either really love or don't like at all.


 


Agreed, West is very polarizing.


 


I've heard people say that they thought she was great.


 


I think she's great, one of my favorites.


 


I had never watched any of her movies until about a month ago when TCM showed one,


"My Little Chickadee", I think it was. I started watching it because of W.C


Fields.


 


This is the same mistake I made. It is the single worst film made by either of them. 


Whenever my film group would show either West or Field's films, I'd give the old eye roll.


 


Then, someone pointed out I should not judge either comedian by that strained performance.


I have since seen several films starring both and finally "get" them.


 


I don't see what the big fuss was with her. Her acting is bad, her singing is terrible, her voice is annoying, she was overweight (compared to other actresses), and her "sexy" walk looked more like she needed a hip replacement or at least a tube of Preperation H.


 


Well, those are kind of the things that make her funny. She is kind of showing you that men are on autopilot-it doesn't take much to get them in gear.


 


My turning point was (I think BELLE OF THE 90's), where she is lauded as the "greatest entertainer, singing star in the world" and the curtains open with her standing in the middle of a tableau, posing. The crowd cheers! Then, another tableau-crowd goes wild! And the final tableau is her as the Statue of Liberty.


All absurd, she does NOTHING but stand there and look "beautiful" and the men clamor for her, want to get backstage.


 


It's a joke, and you really can't explain humor, you just "get it" or not.


 


Then you add her crazy wonderful dialogue and realize she's got a heart of gold underneath that brazen surface. The fact that SHE wrote all her own material and it's brilliant wordplay just add to her allure for me. Remember, she was saying "blue" stuff in a way to get past the censors.


And boy, watching her films with an audience really helps you find that hidden humor.

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