Mae West

west1August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980

“Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.” Night After Night (1932)

In her first scene in her first movie, Mae West made clear her contribution to Hollywood. This response to “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds.” said it all. Critics and censors be damned, Mae was going to say what she wanted, how she wanted.

Born in Brooklyn, Mary Jane West took the same, circuitous route through talent shows and vaudeville as many of her contemporaries. But she differed in that she made bawdy and sexy work for her advantage. And Broadway loved her for it. She appeared in revues and began writing her own plays that were pulsing with double entendre and risque humor. New York audiences ate it up. New York officials did not. She served 8 days in jail for “corrupting the morals of youth” and the media attention launched her bad girl persona straight toward Hollywood. She worked tirelessly to rewrite the parts that were given to her to accent her shtick. She was never going to be the leading lady, but she made the roles she was given immortal. But, alas, this was the 1930’s and the censors would NOT be damned. Her lines were often cut or altered. The things that made her famous became unsavory to the moral police and her career suffered. But, Mae West was many things and a quitter wasn’t one of them. She continued to work on stage (both legit and…not so), television, radio and movies. She recorded albums. She continued to write. She invested well. She was Mae West until the end. After suffering a pair of strokes in 1980, she passed away in her apartment building – which, incidentally, she purchased when the former owner complained about the company she was keeping – at the age of 87.

Burial

Cypress Hills Cemetery – Brooklyn, NY

 

Specific Location

Cypress Hills Abbey, Aisle EE, Section #2, Crypt 5; Enter the C.H. Abbey and go up to the second level. Turn right at the top of the stairs and the Wests are interred in the end cap of Aisle EE on the right. Mae is at the very top.

cypresshills_west

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