Why Mae West Still Matters

2 min read
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

In 1926, Mae West, sex siren of Hollywood films in the brief period of anything-goes before the Hays Code crackdown, wrote and starred in her own play, “Sex,” on Broadway.

Don’t remember Mae West? Watch this excellent collection of clips from the great film star!

Mae’s mistake was not in the bawdy subject matter of her romp involving a prostitute coming to the aid of a high society lady – it was in her not having her fallen woman character punished and ruined in the end, as one of the most sacred unwritten rules of American entertainment demanded.

She was arrested, tried and convicted for her “obscene, immoral, and impure drama” intended to corrupt “the morals of youth.” She was sentenced to 10 days in jail. She arrived at the jailhouse by limousine, garlanded in roses and wearing her silk underwear.

“Sex” has now been revived as a musical adapted by Edward Jordon at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley, Washington as part of their 2019-2020 Theatre Season program. It runs from October 11 through October 26.

Jordon described why Mae West matters today

“Most of us can put a hand on one hip and imitate some of her classic one-liners. But Mae West was so much more than ‘Come up and see me sometime.’ Throughout her life, she was light years ahead of the times, fearlessly speaking about taboo subjects; date rape, white privilege, criminal justice reform, prostitution, police corruption, suicide, drug addiction and, of course, sexuality in all its glorious orientations.”

Mae West was an original: actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian and, above all else, sex symbol. She was notorious for spicing up her roles in gangster B-movies with what, at the time, were shocking unscripted double entendres that have since become classic lines.

As when she said to George Raft, “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” Get acquainted with this pioneering fearless woman’s movies, if she’s someone you’ve missed.

Learn more about “Sex” here.

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