Old Hollywood Stars: Mae West.

Mary Jane “Mae” West (August 17, 1893 – November 22, 1980) was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades, known for her light-hearted bawdy double engenders and breezy sexual independence.

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West was active in vaudeville and on the stage in New York City before moving to Hollywood to become a comedian, actress and writer in the motion picture industry, as well as appearing on radio and television. West made a name for herself by writing and staring in her own plays- the first, in 1926, was entitled sex. The American Film Institute named her 15th among the greatest female stars of classic American cinema.

Enforcing a moral code in entertainment was big in that era, and she served time for corrupting the morals of youth- a theme that would follow her for her entire career. She continued to write racy comedic plays that touched on subjects of pleasure and sexuality, including her 1928 play Diamond Lil; it became a Broadway hit, and she took that luxury-loving persona all the way to Hollywood.

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West got her first studio contract from Paramount Pictures at the age of Foughty- and became a silver screen icon shortly after. Her starring roles in ‘She Done Him Wrong’ and ‘I’m No Angel’ were rumoured to have saved Paramount from bankruptcy and made her the second- highest-paid person in the US at the time (just after William Randolph Hearst).

West was a lifetime advocate for equality for all people; when one of her boyfriends, boxing champion Gorilla Jones, was denied entry to her apartment building because of segregation, she bought the building and lifted the ban. In the 1950s, she performed in her own Las Vegas stage show, surrounded by body-builders. One of those men, Paul Novak, thirty years her junior, became her long-time companion until her death.

mae west 1934 - by paul hesse
Often using a husky contralto voice, West was one of the more controversial movie stars of her day and encountered many problems, especially censorship. She bucked the system, making comedy out of conventional mores, and the Depression-era audience admired her for it. When her cinematic career ended, she wrote books and plays and continued to perform in Las Vegas, in the United Kingdom, on radio and television and to record rock and roll albums. She was once asked about the various efforts to impede her career, to which she replied: “I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.”

Hope you enjoyed this post about Mae West, she is definitely one of my favourites!

Eleanor Elizabeth xx

 

Old Hollywood Stars: Mary Pickford.

There were no movie stars in Hollywood before Mary Pickford (1892-1979) came along. Born in Canada and raised as a child stage actor, Pickford and her family moved to Manhattan so she could make it on Broadway. After her last play closed in 1909, Pickford decided to try out the motion pictures and landed a small part with D.W Griffith’s short-film company Biograph. Exhibiting a phenomenally dedicated work ethic, Pickford acted in fifty-one short films during her first year with Biograph. She created the various yet sassy girl-next-door archetype that would make her a household name.

Exotic Mary

Before she came along, there were no actor credits in films for fear of inflating egos and salaries. Pickford knew her value, though, and made sure those credits appeared- and in the process, invented the Hollywood star. She studio jumped, each time getting a substantial pay rise equal to the highest-paid male star’s, until she became the first actor in history to become a millionaire. Then Pickford pulled the ultimate power play: she formed her own studio, United Artists, with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, and their best friend, Charlie Chaplin and D.W Griffith. As Americas first movie sweetheart, Pickford was savvy enough to leave her name off the executive producer and director credits in order to play to the public’s perception of her sweet, innocent young girl, but industry insiders knew that she called all the shots.

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Pickford won her first Academy Award in her first talkie, Coquette. She also used her star power for philanthropy, selling eighteen billion dollars in Liberty Bonds during WW1, confounding the Motion Picture Relief Fund, and establishing a foundation that still supports the preservation of film and provides scholarships for education today. She essentially invented star power. 

Mary Pickford - Ziegfeld - c. 1920s - by Alfred Cheney Johnston

Hope you enjoyed!

Eleanor Elizabeth xx

Facts I Found Today About…Vampires!

I love autumn and anything spooky, hence when I woke up to the rain this morning It immediately made me excited for everything autumnal, including Halloween. I am a fan of the slightly cheesy vampire books and films, I’m not even ashamed about it! As a History undergrad I wanted to gain more information on the origin of Vampires and folklore, I presumed there presence would be great in the 17th c but I was surprised by a lot of the details involved in the history of vampires.

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  1. The Origin Of Vampires Can Be Traced To Greek Mythology. 

In the story of a young Italian man named Ambrogio and love of his life, Selena. The story includes many features of mainstream vampire tales such as passion, blood-sucking and extreme sun sensitivity.
According to the myth, Ambrogio fell in love with Selena after visiting the legendary Oracle in the temple of Apollo, the sun god. He asked her to marry him, but little did he know the jealous Apollo wanted her for his own. Apollo cursed Ambrogio by causing his skin to burn whenever it was exposed to sunlight.
In desperation, Ambrogio turned to Hades, the god of the underworld, and then Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, for help. After stealing Artemis’s silver bow to fulfil a deal made with Hades, Artemis cursed Ambrogio so silver would burn his skin. She later took pity on him, though, and gave him super strength, immortality, and fangs to kill beasts to use their blood to write love poems to Selena.
Eventually, the mortal Selena escaped Apollo’s grasp and reunited with the immortal Ambrogio. Artemis told Ambrogio he could make Selena immortal by drinking her blood which would kill her body but make her spirit live on. Their combined blood could then turn anyone who drank it into a vampire.

2. The Main Superstition Around Vampires Climaxed In  The 17th Century Eastern Europe. 

The 17th century is notorious for being the height of superstition and fears of vampires is no exception. The accounts about vampires were written by officials such as priest and medical professional. Accounts such as one from 1732, involved numerous unsolved deaths (17) in a village.

3. The Belief In Vampires Centred Around The Graveyard. 

After an unexplained death, graves would sometimes be checked by professionals. There are accounts of bodies still containing running blood or new flesh, indicating the return of life.

4. Vampire Precautions Were Used. 

Following on from the point above, the graveyard and burial of the dead involved safeguarding against vampires. For example, it is thought the grave stone was a way too keep the body in its grave. Coffins were often secured with pins and nails, limbs were severed and sometimes heads were cut off and placed behind the body, in the event of the body returning to life, this way it wouldn’t be able to locate itself. Plus tilted gravestones suggested the body had access in and outside the grave.

5. The Immortality Of Vampires Originates From The Bible. 

In Christianity, blood is life and death is the loss of blood. Hence, Vampires suck blood to regain life and immortality.

This was sort of for my interest but I hope you too enjoyed these facts. Do you have any facts about Vampires?

Eleanor Elizabeth xx