12/27/10 - the delanceyplace end-of-year comedy week

In today's encore excerpt - the success of Mae West, the scandalously sexy star who was film's most successful comedienne in the first half of the twentieth century. Her personal appearances alone would draw crowds in excess of thirty thousand people. She is known for her seductive line, "Why don't you come up sometime and see me?" spoken to Cary Grant in the movie She Done Him Wrong, and for bawdy double entendres such as "I used to be snow white, but I drifted." Though it seemed that her humor and appeal were effortless, it was her extraordinary work ethic that propelled her to the top:

"Mae West's development as a comedienne was slow and painstaking. A careful reading of the material in her personal archive shows that her collection of quips [comes from] roughly two thousand pages of 'gags', comprising jokes and quips copied out methodically from joke books. These are preserved in over forty folders, containing around twenty thousand jokes. ... [Her] Herculean labour of collection continued over four decades. ...

"This was—in essence—when one peers behind the mask of glamour, hype, publicity and subterfuge, Mae West's great secret: that she went home to her apartment or hotel room at night and wrote, turning out, from the mid-1920s, plays, skits, drafts, rewrites, versions, treatments and synopses. ... Eventually, this would include a vast private library of aphorisms, one-liners and jokes: jokes about love, jokes about men and women, jokes about marriage and the eternal battle of the sexes, jokes about all the aggravations and snags of modern life. ...

" 'She: It's better to be looked over than overlooked.'

'They say that love is blind.'
'Yes, but he has a wonderful sense of touch.'

'You can trust me.'
'I'm not looking for a man I can trust.'

'How did you ever come to fall for him?'
'I guess his line was just low enough to trip.'

'Do you prefer men who are a trifle wicked?'
'Wicked but not trifling.'

'A girl may love you from the bottom of her heart, but there's always room for some other guy at the top.'

'Sex didn't begin in Hollywood—it just went there to get in the movies.' "


Simon Louvish


Mae West: It Ain't No Sin


St. Martin's Press


Copyright 2005 by Simon Louvish


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