55 Facts About Mae West


Mary Jane "Mae" West was an American actress, singer, comedian, screenwriter, and playwright whose career spanned over seven decades.


Mae West was active in vaudeville and on stage in New York City before moving to Los Angeles to begin a career in the film industry.


Mary Jane Mae West was born in either the Greenpoint or Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn on August 17,1893, before New York City was consolidated.


Mae West was delivered at home by an aunt who was a midwife.


Mae West was the eldest surviving child of Mathilde Delker, a corset and fashion model, and John Patrick "Battlin' Jack" West, a prizefighter who later worked as a "special policeman" and created his own private investigations agency.


Mae West's German-born mother, who went by the nicknames "Tillie" and "Matilda", had emigrated from Bavaria in 1886 with her five siblings and their parents, Christiana and Jakob Doelger.


Mae West's parents married in Brooklyn on January 18,1889, to the pleasure of the groom's parents and the displeasure of the bride's, and raised their children as Protestants.


Mae West was five when she first entertained a crowd at a church social, and she started appearing in amateur shows at the age of seven.


Mae West began performing professionally in vaudeville in the Hal Clarendon Stock Company in 1907 at the age of 14.


Mae West used the alias "Jane Mast" early in her career.


Mae West's trademark walk was said to have been inspired or influenced by female impersonators Bert Savoy and Julian Eltinge, who were famous during the Pansy Craze.


Mae West next appeared in a show called Vera Violetta, whose cast featured Al Jolson.


Mae West was encouraged as a performer by her mother, who, according to West, always thought that anything Mae did was fantastic.


In 1918, after exiting several high-profile revues, Mae West finally got her break in the Shubert Brothers revue Sometime, opposite Ed Wynn.


The production did not go over well with city officials, who had received complaints from some religious groups, and the theater was raided and Mae West arrested along with the cast.


Mae West was taken to the Jefferson Market Court House, where she was prosecuted on morals charges, and on April 19,1927, was sentenced to 10 days for "corrupting the morals of youth".


Mae West served eight days with two days off for "good behavior".


Mae West adopted a then "modern" psychological explanation that gay men were women's souls in men's bodies, and hitting a gay man was akin to hitting a woman.


Between the late 1920s and early 1930s, Mae West continued to write plays, including The Wicked Age, Pleasure Man, and The Constant Sinner.


In June 1932, after signing a two-month contract with Paramount that provided her a weekly salary of $5,000, Mae West left New York by train for California.


Mae West nonetheless managed to keep her age ambiguous for some time.


Mae West made her film debut in the role of Maudie Triplett in Night After Night starring George Raft, who had suggested West for the part.


Mae West claimed she spotted Grant at the studio and insisted that he be cast as the male lead.


Mae West hoped they would then not object as much to her other less suggestive lines.


Mae West's following effort, Klondike Annie dealt, as best it could given the heavy censorship, with religion and hypocrisy.


Around the same time, Mae West played opposite Randolph Scott in Go Mae West, Young Man.


Mae West next starred in Every Day's a Holiday for Paramount before their association came to an end.


Mae West turned down the part, claiming it was too small for an established star and that she would need to rewrite her lines to suit her own persona.


Mae West was so distraught after the experience and by her years of struggling with the strict Hays Code censorship office, that she would not attempt another film role for the next quarter-century.


On December 12,1937, Mae West appeared in two separate sketches on ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's radio show The Chase and Sanborn Hour.


Mae West went on the show eager to promote Every Day's a Holiday.


Nonetheless, Mae West went on to enjoy a record-breaking success in Las Vegas, swank nightclubs such as Lou Walters's The Latin Quarter, Broadway, and London.


Mae West had a unique comic character that was timeless, in the same way Charlie Chaplin did.


In subsequent years, Mae West was offered the role of Vera Simpson, opposite Frank Sinatra, in the 1957 film adaptation of Pal Joey, which she turned down, with the role going to Rita Hayworth.


In 1964, Mae West was offered a leading role in Roustabout, starring Elvis Presley.


Mae West turned the role down, and Barbara Stanwyck was cast in her place.


Mae West was approached for roles in Frederico Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits and Satyricon, but rejected both offers.


On March 26,1958, Mae West appeared at the live televised Academy Awards and performed the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Rock Hudson, which received a standing ovation.


Mae West guest-starred on television, including The Dean Martin Variety Show in 1959 and The Red Skelton Show in 1960, to promote her autobiography, and a lengthy interview on Person to Person with Charles Collingwood in 1959, which never aired.


CBS executives felt members of the television audience were not ready to see a nude marble statue of Mae West, which rested on her piano.


Mae West's recording career started in the early 1930s with releases of her film songs on shellac 78 rpm records.


Mae West recorded several tongue-in-cheek songs, including "Santa, Come Up to See Me", on the album Wild Christmas, which was released in 1966 and reissued as Mae in December in 1980.


Mae West's likeness was used on the front cover of the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt.


Mae West was a shrewd investor, produced her own stage acts, and invested her money in large tracts of land in Van Nuys, a thriving suburb of Los Angeles.


Mae West was married on April 11,1911, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Frank Szatkus, whose stage name was Frank Wallace, a fellow vaudevillian whom she met in 1909.


Mae West kept the marriage a secret, but a filing clerk discovered the marriage certificate in 1935 and alerted the press.


At first, Mae West denied ever marrying Wallace, but she finally admitted it in July 1937, in reply to a legal interrogatory.


Mae West insisted that they had separate bedrooms, and she soon sent him away in a show of his own to get rid of him.


Mae West obtained a divorce on July 21,1942, during which Wallace withdrew his request for separate maintenance, and West testified that Wallace and she had lived together for only "several weeks".


In 1916, when she was a vaudeville actress, Mae West had a relationship with James Timony, an attorney nine years her senior.


Mae West had a relationship with the Cotton Club's Owney Madden, who did not "date" the chorus girls.


Mae West remained close to her family throughout her life and was devastated by her mother's death in 1930.


The management at her Ravenswood apartment building barred the African American boxer from entering the premises; Mae West solved the problem by buying the building and lifting the ban.


Mae West was 30 years younger than her, and later changed his name to Paul Novak.


Mae West moved in with her, and their romance continued until her death in 1980 at age 87.