on August 17, 1893,
Mae West (Mary Jane West ) would become the first :sex clown"
on film. Her salacous eye-rolling and thinly veiled inuendo
spawned a string of risque comedies in the 1930s. When Mae
was only five years old when she began on the vaudevillian
stage and by the age of 14 she was being billed as "The
1926, Mae wrote, produced and directed the Broadway show,
"Sex," which led her to be arrested for obscenity.
The following year, her next play, "Drag," was banned
on Broadway because its subject matter was homosexuality.
Diamond Lil (1928), West became the toast of Broadway and
in 1932 she signed with Paramount. Her first film role was
supporting George Raft in NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932), in which
Raft said "She stole everything but the cameras." The first
film to star West, SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933), the film version
of Diamond Lil, broke box-office records and saved Paramount
from selling out to MGM. The Hays office brought in a new
censorship code in 1934, largely to combat the code of the
West, but she led them a merry chase through several more
blockbusters: I'M NO ANGEL (1933), BELLE OF THE NINETIES (1934),
GOIN' TO TOWN (1935) and KLONDIKE ANNIE (1936). Her popularity
declined in the late 30s and, after the failure of THE HEAT'S
ON (1943), (the first West film she didn't script herself)
she returned to the stage and, later, the nightclub circuit.
She turned down numerous film offers, including SUNSET BLVD.
(1950), but finally made a comeback of sorts in MYRA BRECKINRIDGE
skirted the delicate sensibilities of Hollywood censors with
sexual innuendo and double entendre and her witty observations
were as widely quoted as Ben Franklin bromides: "It's better
to be looked over than overlooked"; "I used to be Snow White
but it drifted," etc. Although she cultivated the image of
the "tough broad," West always conveyed a curious Victorian
innocence coupled with a winking, self-effacing amusement
at her own preposterous creation. Her popularity reached such
peaks that sailors were inspired to name their inflatable
life jackets after her overemphasized 43-inch "assets," ensuring
West a place, like no other actress to date, in Webster's
from the Autographics Mae West Biography