To say that she was dripping with sex would be quite an understatement. The last thing you could accuse her of was prudishness. She outclassed Marlena Dietrich and became an inspiration for Madonna. In addition, after the era of flat tomboys, she rediscovered curves for Hollywood - literally.
Mae West started her career from the hoof. At the age of thirteen, she landed on Broadway with a salary of one hundred and thirty dollars. She started building her legend very quickly and had no intention of playing the Snow Queen in the process. Unlike skinny, starving stars, she told strict diets a firm no. What resulted in it? A sensual body and voluptuous breasts that Mae was not afraid to show. If you add the immeasurable layers of sex appeal, a sharp tongue and a complete lack of prudishness - the recipe for a star is ready. After two decades of her career on Broadway, all this led her to the dream factory. She was 38 years old.
Dear skinny guys!
The twenties in Hollywood belonged to actresses with a boyish and melancholic look. When Mae West made her film debut in "Night After Night" in 1932, the days of Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich as objects of men's sighs were numbered.
The crowds of men are simply crazy about the appetizing actress. Its dimensions 90-60-90 were quickly proclaimed ideal, newspaper headlines shouted: Roundness - Hollywood wants them, you will want them! and in the "Motion Picture" monthly list, one fan said:
She deserves a round of applause for making these half-starved, innocent girls aware of how skinny their figures are.
The statue of Venus de Milo was missed by men…
Where did the idea to build your brand come from looking completely different than its contemporary stars? When the young West hit Broadway, she had two memories that she later recalled in interviews.
The first was admiring the sculpture of Venus de Milo, which became a symbol of femininity for young Mae. The secret of her beautiful, feminine figure was to rub coconut oil on those places she "wanted to emphasize".
The future star knew what was good - today coconut oil is triumphant in cosmetics (and in dietetics). In her second memory, she insisted that she had invented a dance called shimmy, while still a teenager. West commented on this:
Anyway, I found out that I dance the way everyone else does:only moving my legs. Why not move my hips, shoulders, torso and my whole body? (quoted after:Anne Helen Petersen "The Scandals of the Golden Age of Hollywood")
With these two memories, she built the legend of her body and her brand. She was wonderful, sensual, erotic, natural, and sex seemed to be her exclusive invention. She repeated that she spoke two languages:English and body language. The latter one she has certainly mastered to perfection.
Never give a man a free hand
Mae had such a natural, honest and relaxed approach to sex that today's stars and celebrities could learn from her. She mentioned that as a child she loved the opposite sex and had no qualms about boys.
She was convinced that she should kiss them and she probably liked it, since years later she claimed that a man's kiss was his signature. She always spoke about sex with humor and grace, and allowed herself to make jokes that might shock you in the 1930s.
Though she was not her first youth, Mae West was seducing herds of men.
For example, once she was supposed to say: Ten men are waiting for me at the door? Send one home, I'm tired . Another time she joked that she was on more knees than a handkerchief.
West also called for a revision of the approach to sex, which was ahead of its time. As Anne Helen Petersen writes in "The Golden Age of Hollywood Scandals", in one of the interviews the star emphasized that sex is not more vulgar than food, and shame accompanies it completely unnecessarily:
We are ashamed of it, even though it is the most beautiful thing mother nature has given us. We can no longer remove the primal emotions of sexual desire from our birthright list any more than we can remove our hearts.
It was announced in the newspapers as a new phenomenon. The New York Times wrote that she was so healthy, so direct and so full of life that it inspired the healthiest trend that has reached Hollywood in many years . Two decades before Playboy, West held the position that sex and sexuality became indecent when repressed.
The star was always surrounded by a wreath of men.
Moreover, the star hated hypocrites, so she loudly expressed her views on femininity, sexuality and relationships, and also - half jokingly - gave women good advice on how to be happy in male-female relationships. For example, that never give the man a free hand, because he will put it where it is not needed. What did she think was the best way to keep a man with you? In women's arms, of course!
For drag queens to jail
Playing in Hollywood was never the pinnacle of Mae's dreams - theater was her element. She started with Broadway, where after a few great performances, she started writing her own play, which of course she titled "Sex" .
West was imprisoned for insulting morals and the press was in turmoil . That was exactly what she meant. Money started pouring in, reporters were lining up for the interview after she was released from jail.
Free advertising was enough for another project - "The Drag", which was so obscene with the scenes of "dressing up as women" that it failed in the rehearsal stage.
The chief scandalist of old Hollywood. Mae West.
Another battle was fought by West on the project "The Pleasure Man " when she was brought to trial with fifty cast members. And that was all before she hit Hollywood.
Is it any wonder that this brave scandalist became an LGBT icon in the 1960s and 1970s? It wasn't accidental and it wasn't just about her controversial play "The Drag."
West believed that homosexuals were born this way, and strongly opposed the popular belief at the time that treatment could "restore" a homosexual person to their heterosexual orientation. In addition, she supported her fans with LGBT backgrounds, and she had one thing to say to all who did not want to listen to her sharp tongue and controversial views: Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often . And she always stuck to that.
Anne Helen Petersen, Scandals of the Golden Era of Hollywood, Horizon Sign 2015.