“When I’m bad…”| Spotlight on Mae West

by ThisIsShe|Mags

There are few women of the silver screen I admire – Aubrey Hepburn is of course a favourite (it almost goes without saying), Rita Hayworth, Shirley MacLaine (if you haven’t seen ‘What a way to go!’ I suggest you watch it), Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. Obvious choices to some but not without personal and somewhat unbias consideration. Mae West was a zinger! Her characters embodied a fearless entity- the true definition of a Femme Fatale (You can also check out Complex‘s top 50 hottest Femme Fatales of all time). Mae was unapologetic and a down right minx. I remember the famous line, “when I’m good , I’m very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.”  – yowza! What a bold line from a women with substance. Women are too often afraid to claim both sides of themselves – the Mae West and the Aubrey Hepburn, with a splash of Lauren Bacall; you know, just to throw them off…

As Mae put so candidly and coquettishly :

“To err is human — but it feels divine.”

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Mae West stood as the epitome of playfully vulgar sex in the United States, portraying the role of a woman who made men slaver when she crossed a room in her sinuous walk.

Dressing in skin-tight gowns, bedecking herself in jewels, maintaining a n impeccable blondness and offering innuendos in a sultry voice, Miss West posed as a small-town Lothario’s dream of sexual abando nment in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Her heyday spanned the 1920’s and 30’s when as Diamond Lil she devised her own legend in films, on stage, in nightclubs and on records, not only performing, but also writing much of her own material. She continued acting on into the 70’s, and in a career stretching over six decades she became a millionaire.

”It isn’t what I do, but how I do it,” she said. ”It isn’t what I say, but how I say it, and how I look when I do it and say it.” Her invariable role borrowed heavily from the popular conception of a strumpet of the Gay Nineties. She swathed her petite, hourglass figure in garish furs and gowns, and she sashayed on five-inch stiletto heels; she purred witticisms that evoked both the atmosphere of the bawdyhouse and the raucous laughter of the honky-tonk.

Vanity Fair magazine was right in calling Miss West ”the greatest female impersonator of all time.” It was a remark passed without malice because the actress, although flamboyant, was bascially sedate, neither smoking nor drinking.

Some Memorable Lines

Some of the actress’s lines have entered the American vocabulary. In the mid-30’s, her suggestive invitation to ”come up ‘n’ see me sometime” became the most-repeated phrase of the day. ”Peel me a grape,” another utterance that hinted at sybaritic sex, was almost as frequently imitated.

Other memorable Mae West lines included: ”Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” ”I’m not good and tired, just tired.” ”When a girl goes bad, men go right after her.” ”It’s hard to be funny when you have to be clean.” ”It’s better to be looked over than overlooked.” ”Between two evils I always pick the one I never tried before.” ”I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.” ”The man I don’t like doesn’t exist.” During World War II, Miss West’s 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 United States Army soldiers referred to twin-turreted combat tanks as ”Mae Wests.”

via: NY Times 

Further information:

Mae West’s Secret of Success 

Mae West on Goodreads

 

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