Monday, August 27, 2012

Mae West - An Inspiration

I've always had a special thing for Mae West. I'm not sure where it started, but when I was a kid, I used to do impersonations of her for my family. One night in the middle of a dinner party my parents were hosting, I walked in—seven or eight years old—and in my best Mae West voice said, "Is that a gun in your pants or are you just happy to see me."

Well, the guests thought it was hilarious. My parents, not so much. I wasn't exactly sure why I'd elicited such responses since I had no idea what the line meant, but I remember really enjoying my new found ability to coax a certain response from people.

Years later I am still trying to play with people's emotions, but with my books rather than my (non-existent) acting ability! But I digress.

Back to my fascination with Mae West. DH and I were surfing the gazillion channels we get on TV the other night when we came across a documentary on the woman. I had no idea what a ground breaker she was. She arrived in Hollywood after her star had risen on Broadway and demanded the highest salary at Paramount Pictures. When she was told the head of the studio made $250,000, she replied that she wanted $251,000. And she got it.

She did what no woman before had done. She fought for control of her movies, even wrote plays and some scenes in her movies. To get her famous double-entendres around the strict censors of the day, she threw in a ton of extra racy lines that she knew they would nix into her movies.

One of her plays, titled "Sex" was so risque that she was arrested on "morals" charges and sentenced to ten days in jail. While there, the warden and his wife took her to dinner every night!

Mae West is credited for paving the way for future sexpot stars like Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield. She started her movie career much later than most - at 38 years old. She wasn't particularly pretty and didn't have a great figure but she exuded sex. She discovered Cary Grant and helped launch his career and she starred movies into her eighties.

Gotta love women who are so ahead of their time. For me, Mae West is an inspiration. What about you? Who inspires you?


Dalton Diaz said...

Wow, I had no idea she discovered Cary Grant, too. Can you imagine how far she could have gone today?

I have always looked up to Meryl Streep. What talent, but aside from that, she has her priorities straight. Her career is just that, a career.

Wynter Daniels said...

I love Meryl Streep. Talk about talent!

Naima Simone said...

LOL! I had to pause and take a breath as I pictured that dinner party scene in my head...LOL!! That's hilarious! But who knew Mae West was such a trail blazer? That's pretty awesome!

I'd have to say my inspiration would be Oprah Winfrey. She reminds me that where you're from doesn't determine or hinder who you can be or how far you can go.

Wynter Daniels said...

Oprah is a great inspiration. I love her and the example she continues to set.

Casey Crow said...

Ah, Mae West is so gorgeous!