Mae West Biography

Mae West

Quick Facts About Mae West

Celebrated Name Mae West
Age 129 Years
Nick Name Queen of the World
Birth Name Mae Jane West
Birth Date 1892-08-17
Gender Female
Profession Actress
Body Shape Voluptuous Figure
Bra Cup Size 34 inch
Brothers John Edwin West Jr.
Sexual Orientation Straight
Siblings 2
Sisters Mildred Katherine West
Dress Size (Bust) US 8
Father John Patrick West
Marital Status Married
Hair Style Platinum Blonde Hair
Mother Mathilde Delker "Tillie"
Best Known For Acting, Singing, Screenwriting, Comedian, Sex Symbol.
Cause Of Death Severe Stroke
Birth Nation America
Nationality American
Children None
Education School Dropped Out
Ethnicity White
Religion Catholic
Eye Color Blue
Height 1.52m
Weight 56kg
Death Date November 22, 1980
Place Of Death Hollywood, California
Place Of Birth Brooklyn, New York, USA
Husband Paul Novak (1923-1980)
Genre Female
Horoscope Leo
Net Worth USD 20 million
Origin American
Source of Wealth Acting, Singing, Screenwriting, Comedian, Sex Symbol.
Residence California, USA
Spouse 3
Hair Color Light Brown

Mae West, an American stage and film actress, is a sex symbol whose frank sensuality, languid postures, and blasé wisecracking became her trademarks. Along with acting, she was a singer, playwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades. She usually portrayed women who accepted their lives of dubious virtue with flippant good humor. She was active in vaudeville and on stage in New York City before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry.

She bucked the system by making comedy out of conventional mores, and the Depression-era audience admired her for it. West was one of the most controversial movie stars of her day; she encountered many problems especially with censorship. Along with the acting careers, she also writes her plays such as "The Ruby Ring", "The Hussy", "Loose Women" and more. Her first movie in 1932 was "Night After Night" was a blockbuster movie. She had recorded plenties of the album with several songs of her own lyrics. It's been said that at least 21 singles were released from 1933 to 1973. She has played numerous movies with different characters in different movies. Night After Night, She Done Him Wrong, I'm no Angel, 

Go West Young Man, The Heat's are some of her movies. She wrote also novels in her career life.

The Constant Sinner, Diamond Lil, Goodness Had Nothing to Do with it, and more in several years.

What was Mae West famous for?

  • She was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades.
  • Her first film was Night After Night (1932). Her overt sexuality and use of double entendre in She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel (1933) led to increased censorship in the movie industry.
  • Known as Queen of the world.

Where is Mae West From?

Mary Jane West as her birth name and later known as Mae West is an American Citizen who was born on August 17, 1892, in Brooklyn, New York, USA. Mae herself worked on the stage and in vaudeville from the time she was five years old. She never was academically inclined because she was too busy performing. She studied dance as a child, and by the time she was 14 she was billed as "The Baby Vamp" for her performances on stage. Her father's name was John Patrick West and her mother's name was Mathilde Delker "Tillie"(later matilda and Delker origin from Doelger). Mae's father was a prizefighter known around the Brooklyn area as "Battlin' Jack" West, not so much for this success in the ring as for his reputation for street brawling. When he wasn't fighting in authorized boxing matches, he was fighting in underground street fights or exhibiting his boxing prowess in pick-up fights at Coney Island Amusement Park. Later, after he met Tillie, he worked as a "special policeman" (most likely as muscle for local business and crime bosses) and then as a private detective. Her mother was a former corset and fashion model. Her mother and her five siblings emigrated with their parents, Jakob (1835–1902) and Christiana (1838–1901; née Brüning) Doelger from Bavaria in 1886.

She has two siblings one brother and a sister. Her sister was named Mildred Katherine West later known as Beverly (Born December 8, 1898- Died March 12, 1982) and her brother's name was John Edwin West II (sometimes called him John Edwin West, Jr. Born February 11, 1900- Died October 12, 1964).

She was from white Ethnicity and Leo was her zodiac sign. She was Catholic by her religion.

Mae West Life Story and Career

During her childhood, West's family moved to various parts of Woodhaven, as well as the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods of Brooklyn. In Woodhaven, at Neir's Social Hall (which opened in 1829 and is still extant), West supposedly first performed professionally.

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. She made her first stage appearance at the age of 5 at a church social. While her home performances made her father proud, he wasn't too keen on her performing for the public. Tillie blithely ignored his concerns and enrolled her in dance school at the age of 7. Soon she was appearing at amateur night at the local burlesque theaters under the stage name "Baby May." After winning First Place and a $10 prize, her father became an ardent supporter, dragging her costume case to performances and sitting in the audience as her No. 1 fan. She began performing professionally in vaudeville in the Hal Clarendon Stock Company in 1907 at the age of 14. Mae West first performed under the stage name "Baby Mae", and tried various personas, including a male impersonator. West made her debut with a Brooklyn stock company about 1901, and by 1907. She had become a performer on the national vaudeville circuit in partnership with Frank Wallace. She made her Broadway debut as a singer and acrobatic dancer in the revue A la Broadway in 1911. For the next 15 years, she alternated between vaudeville and Broadway shows, and she did an occasional nightclub act.

She was encouraged as a performer by her mother, who, according to West, always thought that anything Mae did was fantastic. Other family members were less encouraging, including an aunt and her paternal grandmother. They are all reported as having disapproved of her career and her choices. In 1918, after exiting several high-profile revues, West finally got her to break in the Shubert Brothers revue Sometime, opposite Ed Wynn.

While still a teenager, West became a star on the vaudeville stage. Her first Broadway appearances were in 1911, in the revues A la Broadway and Hello Paris. The following year she appeared in A Winsome Widow, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. In 1918, West took a role in the musical comedy Sometime, in which she introduced a dance known as the "Shining Shawabble." She soon became a hit on the New York vaudeville stage, becoming known for her flashy and tight-fitting clothing as well as her provocative comments, delivered in dialects or a throaty voice. Her costumes would typically include an assortment of rhinestones, leopard skins, and huge plumed hats, all worn on her five-foot-tall body. West was unique in being one of the few women who performed solo in vaudeville, and even at her young age, she commanded a salary of several hundred dollars per week.

In the early 1930s, after the constant struggles with censorship of her plays, West decided to move to Hollywood and embark on a film career, hoping that she would enjoy more freedom there. Her popularity with the public was already so great that even though the Great Depression had begun, she won a $5,000-per-week contract with Paramount Pictures. In her first film, Night After Night in 1932, West portrayed the girlfriend of a gangster played by George Raft. When a woman comments, "Goodness, what beautiful diamonds," West gives her famous response: "Goodness had nothing to do with it."

During the mid-1930s West became one of the most popular and highly paid actors in Hollywood. She also became a shrewd real estate investor, once making a profit of almost $5 million on a $16,000 investment. Her film career reached its peak, with two more successes in Go West, Young Man in 1936 and Every Day's a Holiday in 1938, in which she played a character named Peaches O'Day who used her wiles to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to a naive man. Night After Night (1932), showed the lighthearted approach that was characteristic of her subsequent pictures. She Done Him Wrong (1933), a screen adaptation of Diamond Lil, is memorable for her amusing ability to charge such lines as “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?” with suggestive implications. West then wrote and co-starred in I’m No Angel (1933), Belle of the Nineties (1934), and Klondike Annie (1936), which brought her popularity to its height. After two more films, she starred with W.C. Fields in the comic western My Little Chickadee (1940), whose script she wrote with him. During World War II, Allied soldiers called their inflatable life jackets “Mae Wests” in honor of her hourglass figure. In the 1940s and ’50s, she sometimes appeared onstage surrounded by young musclemen, including on Broadway in Catherine Was Great (1944).

In the 1940s, West's popularity declined. She also finally acknowledged the marriage she had walked away from while a teenager. In the mid-1930s, her husband Frank Wallace had begun to tour the country with a nightclub act in which he called himself "Mae West's husband." Then, in 1942, Wallace filed for divorce and sought alimony from West. She eventually settled the case with an undisclosed private financial agreement.

Her films were revived in the 1960s, and she appeared in Myra Breckinridge (1970), an adaptation of a novel by Gore Vidal, and Sextette (1978), based on a play that she wrote. The title of her autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It (1959), captured her style precisely—it was a retort one of her characters made to the exclamation “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!”.In 1959, West released her bestselling autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It, recounting her life in show business. She made a few guest appearances on the 1960s television comedy/variety shows like The Red Skelton Show and some situation comedies like Mister Ed. She also recorded a few albums in different genres including rock 'n' roll and a Christmas album which, of course, was more parody and innuendo than a religious celebration. In the 1960s, she recorded an album of Bob Dylan and Beatles songs, Way Out West, plus a holiday album, Wild Christmas. West's film career was briefly reborn when she appeared in two films that have been ranked among the worst ever made.

In the 1970s she appeared in her two last films, Gore Vidal's Myra Breckenridge, in which she had a small part, and her own Sextette (1978). Though Myra Breckenridge was a box office and critical failure, it did find an audience on the cult film circuit and served to revitalize many of her other movies at film festivals. In 1976, West began work on her final film, Sextette. The picture was adapted from a script she wrote for the stage, but the production suffered from several problems including daily script revisions, creative disagreements, and West's difficulty remembering her lines and following set direction.

As the decade wound down, West's film career seemed to wane somewhat. The few other films she did for Paramount—Go West, Young Man and every day's a Holiday—did not do well at the box office, and she found censorship was severely limiting her creativity. On December 12, 1937, she appeared as herself on ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's radio show The Chase and Sanborn Hour in two comedy sketches.

The actress, who only appeared in 12 films in 46 years, had a powerful impact on us. There was no doubt she was way ahead of her time with her sexual innuendos and how she made fun of a puritanical society. She did a lot to bring it out of the closet and perhaps we should be grateful for that.

Playwriting and Controversy

In 1926, Mae West got her first starring role in a Broadway play entitled Sex, which she wrote, produced, and directed. Though the play was a hit at the box office, the "more respectable" Broadway critics panned it for its explicit sexual content. The production also did not go over well with city officials, who raided the show and arrested West along with much of the cast. She was prosecuted on morals charges and on April 19, 1927, sentenced to 10 days in jail on Welfare Island (now known as Roosevelt Island) in New York. The incarceration was cordial, as West reportedly dined with the warden and his wife on a few occasions. She served eight days, with two off for good behavior. The media attention of the entire affair did nothing but enhance her career.

West's second play, The Drag in 1926, sympathetically tackled a subject that was not discussed on stage at the time--homosexuality. After a two-week run in New Jersey, West was persuaded not to bring it to Broadway. Her third play, Adamant Lil in 1928, was a great success. West played the title role of an 1890s saloon singer with underworld connections. In this play, she uttered her famous line to a Salvation Army captain: "Why don't you come up and see me sometime?" Two other plays, Pleasure Man in 1928 and The Constant Sinner in 1931, were also targeted by the censors; Pleasure Man was closed by the police after its first performance and never reopened; The Constant Sinner closed after two performances when the district attorney threatened to bring charges.

Mae West husband

Source: @gettyimages

Who was Mae West Married to?

Frank Szatkus (1911-1943)

In her early teens, West joined a vaudeville company, where she met Frank Wallace, who soon became her song-and-dance partner. According to her biographers, Wallace proposed marriage to her several times, but she refused, instead of having affairs with several other male cast members. On April 11, 1911, she and Frank Wallace were married by a justice of the peace in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Only 17, she lied about her age on her marriage certificate (18 was the legal age for marriage in Wisconsin at the time) and both newlyweds promised to keep the marriage secret from the public and her parents. The union remained a secret until 1935 when West was well into her movie career and a publicity staff person found the marriage certificate in some old papers. For many years, she claimed she and Wallace had never lived as husband and wife. She broke up the act soon after they arrived back in New York in the summer of 1911 but West and Wallace did not divorce until 1942.

Guido Deiro (1914–1920)

In August 1913, she met Guido Deiro (1886–1950), an Italian-born vaudeville headliner and star of the piano accordion. Her affair, and possible 1914 marriage to him, as alleged by Diego's son Guido Roberto Deiro in his 2019 book Mae West and The Count, went "very deep, hittin' on all the emotions". West later said, "Marriage is a great institution. I'm not ready for an institution yet."

Paul Novak (1923-1980)

She became romantically involved at age 61 with Chester Rybinski (1923–1999), one of the muscle men in her Las Vegas stage show – a wrestler, former Mr. California, and former merchant sailor. He was 30 years younger than her and later changed his name to Paul Novak. 

In private, West and Novak was a remarkably compatible, easygoing couple. They liked folksy, small gatherings at which West loved to entertain her friends with songs and outrageous stories. She never tried to dominate the conversation but was content to sit back and listen to Novak and others hold forth on current events. Novak loved to laugh as much as she did and was a fine, funny storyteller in his own right.

Their mutual devotion grew with the passing years and was touching to behold, yet their initial romance was tempestuous and took years to settle down. They were in a way both strong-willed loners who loved their freedom.

He moved in with her, and their romance continued until her death in 1980 at age 87. Paul Novak, Mae West’s companion of 26 years and the acknowledged love of her life, died Wednesday morning at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, where he was undergoing treatment for advanced prostate cancer at the age of 76.

When Did Mae West?

In August 1980, Mae West had a severe fall while getting out of bed. She was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California, where tests confirmed she had suffered a stroke. The rehabilitation was complicated, with a diabetic reaction to the formula in her feeding tube. On September 18, 1980, she suffered a second stroke that left much of her right side paralyzed. She then developed pneumonia. Her condition showed some signs of stabilizing, but the overall prognosis was good, and she was released to her home for her convalescence. Mae suffered a series of strokes which finally resulted in her death at age 87 on November 22, 1980, in Hollywood, California. She was buried in New York.

Her net worth is estimated at $20 million.

Did You Know?

  • Hollywood's outrageous, self-proclaimed psychic Criswell predicted in 1955 that she would win the 1960 Presidential election, and would fly to the moon in 1965 with him and friend Liberace!.
  • During World War II, United States Navy and Army pilots and crewmen in the Pacific named their inflatable life vests after her, supposedly because of her well-endowed attributes. The term "Mae West" for a lifejacket continues to this day.
  • She was with George Raft in both her first (Night After Night (1932)) and last (Sextette (1977)) film.
  • Former Beatle Ringo Starr appeared with West in Sextette (1977). He was unpleasantly surprised at first, at all the attention given her on the set (usually reserved for pop stars like The Beatles), but came to admire West during the shoot, and praised her afterward.
  • It is sometimes credited with originating the Shimmy (a once-popular dance).
  • Was banned from NBC Radio after a guest appearance in 1937 with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy that was loaded with flirtatious dialogue and double-entendres. She returned to the network as a guest on Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall (1948) in 1949.
  • She was famous for her morning enemas, which she claimed made her skin like silk and left her "smelling sweet at both ends".
  • Her films are credited with single-handedly saving failing and debt-ridden Paramount Pictures from bankruptcy in the early 1930s.
  • Once when she was scheduled to play a theater in New Haven, Connecticut, the theater's management refused to let her go on because her act was too "risqué" and canceled the show. Disappointed, Yale University students rioted and wrecked the theater.
  • Eldest of three children of John Patrick West, an occasional prizefighter and livery-stable owner, and Matilda Delker Doelger, a one-time corset and fashion model. A baby girl died before Mae was born and a girl and a boy were born after.
  • During World War II her name was applied to various pieces of military equipment, and was thus listed in Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition. The Royal Air Force named its inflatable life jackets "Mae Wests", and US soldiers referred to twin-turreted combat tanks as "Mae Wests".
  • Was not a smoker or a drinker.
  • Was at one point Hollywood's highest paid star.
  • The Coca-Cola bottle was said to have been designed with Mae West's figure as inspiration.
  • Sister of singer Beverly Arden. Graduated from Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School in 1911, as did silent film star Norma Talmadge.
  • Sister of singer Beverly Arden.
  • Graduated from Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School in 1911, as did silent film star Norma Talmadge.
  • Graduated from Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School in 1911, as did silent film star Norma Talmadge.
  • One of her boyfriends and life long friends was the African American Boxer William Jones, nicknamed Gorilla Jones. When management at her Ravenswood apartment building barred him from entering, she solved the problem buy purchasing the building and lifting the ban.
  • The US Congress list of highest salaries for 1936 (published on January 7 1937) had her as the highest Hollywood earner with £96,166 (GBP) ahead of Marlene Dietrich (second at £73,000) and Bing Crosby (third at £63,781).
  • She was one of the famous people who appeared on the cover the Beatles album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.