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Mae West

Real name: Mary Jane West
Birthdate: August 17, 1893
Status: N/A
Partner: N/A

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Mae West (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980) was an American actress, playwright, screenwriter, and sex symbol.

Eventually, she began writing her own risqué plays using the pen name "Jane Mast." Her first starring role on Broadway was in a play she titled Sex, which she also wrote, produced and directed. Though critics hated the show, ticket sales were good. The notorious production did not go over well with city officials and the theater was raided with West arrested along with the cast.

In 1932, West was offered a motion picture contract by Paramount. She signed and went to Hollywood to appear in Night After Night starring George Raft. Upon her arrival, she moved into an apartment in the Ravenswood at 570 North Rossmore Avenue, not far from the studio on Melrose. She maintained a residence at the Ravenswood, her preferred abode, for the rest of her life, although she also owned a beach house and a ranch in the San Fernando Valley.Mae West's signature

She brought her Diamond Lil character, now renamed Lady Lou, to the screen in She Done Him Wrong (1933). The film is also notable for one of Cary Grant's first major roles, which boosted his career. West had spotted Grant at the studio and insisted that he be cast as the male lead. The movie was a financial success, and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.

West's next movie was Belle of the Nineties (1934). It was originally titled It Ain't No Sin, but the title was changed due to the censor's objection. Other tentative working titles included That St. Louis Woman, Belle of St. Louis and Belle of New Orleans. The same could be said for her following film, Goin' To Town (1935), which was originally titled How Am I Doin'? In 1936, she adapted for the screen Lawrence Riley's Broadway hit Personal Appearance. The film, directed by Henry Hathaway, was one of the rare times when West starred in a role not originally conceived for her. In it she played opposite Randolph Scott. West starred in two other movies for Paramount before their association came to an end.

The famous Mae West quip "Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?", often varied to "Is that a banana in your pocket . . .", is accurately attributed to her. She made this remark in February 1936, at the train station in Los Angeles upon her return from Chicago, when a Los Angeles police officer was assigned to escort her home. She first delivered the line on film in My Little Chickadee, and again to George Hamilton in her last movie, Sextette. It is one of the most quoted lines in movie history.

When Billy Wilder offered West the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, she refused and pronounced herself offended at being asked to play a "has-been," similar to the responses he received from Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, and Pola Negri. Ultimately the more amenable Gloria Swanson was cast in the role.


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