2014-2015 Season,  Dramaturgy

Glossary of People and Places – Dirty Blonde

Glossary of Key Equipment Finance Terms

Welcome!  This site is a dramaturgy resource for Triad Stage’s production of Dirty Blonde and will provide an opportunity for greater discovery.

In Claudia Shear’s Dirty Blonde, the script takes the reader on a historic journey in which a plethora of people and locations are interwoven into the dialogue.  During rehearsals, the Triad Stage actors (Scott Ahearn, Ryan Dunkin, and Catherine Lefrere) and director (Artistic Associate, Bryan Conger) will comb through the script and embark upon independent and collective research.  Similarly, the production dramaturge (Artistic Associate, Tamera Izlar) will research the world of the play and will create/update the online companion site.  Scroll down to view pertinent people and/or places explored in the script.

Note: Names of people and locations are listed in alphabetical order.

Baker, Josephine (1906-1975)  An important figure in the Swing world, Baker’s political significance was equally as pertinent. She was the first African American female to star in motion pictures and to perform at a racially integrated American Concert Hall. She aided the French resistance in WWII which won her the prestigious military award of the Croix de Guerre and she is especially noted for her contributions to the American Civil Rights movement in the 1970s.  Josephine Baker’s signature moves frenzied Charleston, leggy Knee Rocks, Camel Walk variations, etc.  Originally hailing from Missouri, this “Creole Goddess” (as the French called her) exploded onto Parisian stages in 1927. Not soon after, she started her movie career and shot right up to became the highest paid female performer in Europe and assumed the appellation of the Most Photographed Woman in the World.  This clip is from La Revue Des Revues. See if you can pick out the signature moves mentioned above!  Referenced Article

Beavers, Louise (1902-1962):  African American actress. Louise Beavers started her performing career as a singer in a minstrel show. She had a beautiful voice and sang in some of her films. Her family moved to California; Her entree into Hollywood was as maid to silent film star Leatrice Joy. With Ms. Joy’s encouragement, Louise Beavers began accepting small film parts in 1923, and three years later became a full-time performer when she joined the Ladies Minstrel Troupe. After co-starring in the 1927 Universal remake of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Beavers worked steadily in films, usually playing maids, housekeepers and “mammies.”

With the coming of sound films, Beavers’ career took off, and between 1929 and 1960, she appeared in more than 100 films. She was one of the most frequently employed black actors of her day. Two oddities regarding her screen persona were: she did not have a southern accent and had to develop one; she was not a fat person and had to keep up her weight for her roles. Beavers’ most famous and noted role was her portrayal of Delilah Johnson, the housekeeper/cook whose employer, played by Claudette Colbert, transform her into an Aunt Jemima-like celebrity in the 1934 film “Imitation of Life.” One of the film’s main conflicts was that between Delilah and her light-skinned daughter Peola (played by Fredi Washington ), who wanted to pass for white. Imitation of Life was the first time in American cinema history that a black woman’s problems were given emotional weight in a major Hollywood motion picture.
Among Louise Beavers’ more than 130 films were: “The Gold Diggers 1923” (1923) in a Bit Part, her film debut; “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1927); “Coquette” (1929) as Julia; “Freaks” (1932) as a Maid; “She Done Him Wrong” (1933) with Mae West, as Pearl; “Imitation of Life” (1934) She died of a heart attack on October 26, 1962 in Hollywood , California at age 60. She was inducted posthumously into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1976.  Source
During the mid-1950s, the five-foot-four actress put on a frilly apron and reprized this role as maid and right-hand gal in “The Mae West Revue,” traveling the circuit with Mae and the musclemen.  Source


Louis Beavers – African American Actress

 Banton, Travis (1894-1958): Travis Banton was the star costume designer at Paramount during the studio’s heyday of glamor and sophistication in the 1930’s. During his tenure (1924-38), he created imaginative, often daring designs for stars like Kay Francis, Carole Lombard, Mae West and, most famously, Marlene Dietrich. His best work was done in tandem with the director Josef von Sternberg, cinematographer Lee Garmes and art director Hans Dreier. Collectively, they created a visual style of costume, make-up and scenery, which became known as ‘Hollywood baroque’. For Banton, this emphasized the use of sumptuous, figure-hugging, often heavily embellished or reflective fabrics, as well as imparting a sense of kinetic energy through the prodigious use of trailing feathers or veils. He also coached stars like Dietrich on posture and demeanor to compliment ‘the look’. Source

  Travis Banton

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772-1834): English lyrical poet, critic, and philosopher. His Lyrical Ballads, written with William Wordsworth, heralded the English Romantic movement, and his Biographia Literaria (1817) is the most significant work of general literary criticism produced in the English Romantic period.  The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” composed during the autumn and winter of 1797–98, was his most famous poem.  He drew upon the ballad form.  Click view source article and to learn more.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, detail of an oil painting by Washington Allston, 1814;in the National Portrait Gallery, London.  Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery, London
“Coleridge, Samuel Taylor”. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 26 Dec. 2014. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/9549/Samuel-Taylor-Coleridge-detail-of-an-oil-painting-by-Washington>

Daly theatre: Began its life as museum-theatre, operated by owner John Banvard. The next year it was renamed for the new owner and offered light musical comedy. Banvard regained control in 1876 and renamed it the Broadway. In 1879, Augustin Daly took over, renaming for himself one of the city’s last stock companies. After his 1899 death, various managers followed, including the Shuberts. It was a burlesque house when it was demolished in 1920.

Deiro, Guido (1886-1950)  Guido and Mae met for the first time when they both performed at a vaudeville show in Detroit during August 1913. Guido commanded top billing and was praised in review after review as an accordionist of exceptional ability. Because Guido was a headliner — Mae was only playing secondary roles at the time — she hoped that Guido would give a big boost to her career. However, her attraction to him was not entirely for professional reasons; she was completely infatuated with him.

Mae, who had remained detached from previous lovers, was consumed by Guido. She found him exciting, passionate, and indulgent.

Mae confessed that she fell passionately for the charming accordionist; for the first time she was in love. She wrote, “I couldn’t help myself — [Guido] was an amazing lover. The sex thing was terrific with this guy. I wanted to do it [with Guido] morning, noon and night, and that’s all I wanted to do.”

Marriage to Mae West
Marriage to Mae West Part 2
Click to view Guido Deiro playing the accordion

Dupont, Mr.: Mr. Dupont a was bisexual gentleman Mae West became acquainted with; Mae West was not too familiar with this “phase of sex”, West admitted. According to Mae West, Dupont was something different – a rugged, virile man who nonetheless was sexually drawn to other me.  This bewildering phenomenon led to West to seek out the works of medical writers on homosexuality – Kraft-Ebing, Ulrich, Freud-in an effort to learn more about homosexual desire.  Some perverse force, some “strange thing’ that she did not understand, compelled her to gather this new information and put it into dramatic form.  The result was The Dray, a work she described as “a realistic play or a modern social problem.  Source

Elsner, Edward: Director, Producer, Performer, Writer.  Directed Mae West’s production of Sex (1926-1927) which ran 375 performances

Excerpt taken from The New York Times Essay; I Remember Mae
I asked why she had turned to her first director, Edward Elsner, to stage her shocking ”Sex”; he was famed for directing the actress Maude Adams, no sex symbol.
”I wanted a director that wasn’t too young, one that knew all the old tricks, because . . . mmmm . . . I knew all the new ones.
”The first man I went to said I didn’t stick to a formula. He wasn’t my man. The second guy just sputtered that my play was immoral and salacious. He wasn’t my man, either.
”Ed Elsner directed such sweet things,” she recalled, ”I didn’t think he’d like my play. His glasses were broken when I went to see him, so he couldn’t read the script himself. I read it to him.
”He had one of those cruel little smiles,” she said, smiling a cruel little smile herself. ”He looked like Mephisto. He never laughed once during my reading — just that little, thin smile. I couldn’t figure what was going on in his head.
”When I finished the first act, I asked him if he wanted me to go on. He just looked at me long and hard and smiled that cruel little smile and said, ‘Miss West, I want you to read . . . every . . . single . . . line of it.’
”Right then I knew — this was my man!”
A carefully constructed anecdote, but when delivered by Mae West playing Mae West, devilishly suggestive. She proudly mocked her sexiness even as she exploited men’s interest in sex. Unlike glamour girls and sex goddesses before and after, she was nice-tough, good-humored and forthright — which made her invulnerable.

Fields, Bill (W. C.) (1880-1946): William Claude Dukenfield was the eldest of five children born to Cockney immigrant James Dukenfield and Philadelphia native Kate Felton. He went to school for four years, then quit to work with his father selling vegetables from a horse cart. At eleven, after many fights with his alcoholic father (who hit him on the head with a shovel), he ran away from home. For a while he lived in a hole in the ground, depending on stolen food and clothing. He was often beaten and spent nights in jail. His first regular job was delivering ice. By age thirteen he was a skilled pool player and juggler. It was then, at an amusement park in Norristown PA, that he was first hired as an entertainer.

There he developed the technique of pretending to lose the things he was juggling. In 1893 he was employed as a juggler at Fortescue’s Pier, Atlantic City. When business was slow he pretended to drown in the ocean (management thought his fake rescue would draw customers). By nineteen he was billed as “The Distinguished Comedian” and began opening bank accounts in every city he played. At age twenty-three he opened at the Palace in London and played with Sarah Bernhardt at Buckingham Palace. He starred at the Folies-Bergere (young Charles Chaplin and Maurice Chevalier were on the program).
He was in each of the Ziegfeld Follies from 1915 through 1921. He played for a year in the highly praised musical “Poppy” which opened in New York in 1923. In 1925 D.W. Griffith made a movie of the play, renamed Sally of the Sawdust (1925), starring Fields. Pool Sharks (1915), Fields’ first movie, was made when he was thirty-five. He settled into a mansion near Burbank, California and made most of his thirty-seven movies for Paramount. He appeared in mostly spontaneous dialogs on Charlie McCarthy‘s radio shows. In 1939 he switched to Universal where he made films written mainly by and for himself. He died after several serious illnesses, including bouts of pneumonia.  Source
Mae West Connection: He played Cuthbert J. Twillie in Mae West’s1940 film My Little Chickadee.  An actor who drank alcoholic beverages openly, West had a clause in her contract which stated she could let him go if she ever caught him drinking.  View the source and learn more here

In Mae West biography “it ain’t no sin” by Simon Louvish, W.C. Fields and Mae West’s relationship is expounded upon.

“The legend of My Little Chickadee remains in many minds a tale of two rivals slugging it out for credits and power.  Bill wrote his own lines, Mae wrote hers, and seldom the twain did meet.  In fact, as vaudeville babies, both Fields and West had a long stage past in common.  In private they were poles apart: he liked his liquor abundant and his female companions young and pliable; she liked the liquor locked in the cupboard and her men young, sober and hunky.  Nevertheless, they also shared another powerful common interest, that of performers fighting to get their own way in the face of studio procedures (Louvish, 336-337).”
Louvish, Simon. “it ain’t no sin”. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. print.
W. C. Fields

 Frisco, Joe (1889-1958): Frisco made his name on stage as a dancer. Performing dance on the stage, he soon added his stuttering voice to the act and became a popular comedian. Later in his career, he became less of a dancer and more of a storyteller. At one time during his acting career he was earning upwards of $50,000 per year. When he died of cancer ( February 12, 1958), he was virtually penniless.

Frisco was a compulsive gambler and spent many afternoons while in New York City at the track with actor Jay C. Flippen, playwright Jerry Devine, actor Martin Gabel (husband of Arlene Francis) and Danny Lavezzo (owner of P. J. Clarke’s), and when he began to incorporate stand-up comedy into his act, his humor revolved on tales about his bad luck gambling, speakeasies, and his constant state of debt.
Frisco stuttered, but could recite scripted dialogue without impairment. His 1930 comedy short The Happy Hottentots shows Frisco as a snappy vaudevillian, without any speech impediment at all. He soon became known for his witty off-stage remarks, made in a stammering voice.  Perhaps his most famous line was uttered while in a New York hotel. The room clerk called and said, “Mr. Frisco, we understand you have a young lady in your room.” Frisco replied, “T-t-t-then send up another G-g-gideon B-b-bible, please.”  Reference Source

Joe Frisco vaudeville comedian and dancer- short clip-

Fulton theatre (Lancaster, PA):  Commissioned by the renowned Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan, Fulton Hall was erected in 1852. Named Fulton Hall, after the county’s steam engine pioneer, Robert Fulton, it was built on the foundation of Lancaster’s pre-Revolutionary jail, where in 1763, a vigilante gang known as the “Paxtang Boys” massacred the last of the Conestoga Indians being held there for their protection. The first musical concert at Fulton Hall was by violinist Ole Bull and 9-year-old soprano Adelina Patti, to raise money for a settlement of Scandinavians in Potter County. Mark Twain and Horace Greeley were among the lecturers who came to Fulton Hall, and theatrical performances included Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Click to view source article and to learn more

A sketch of Lancaster's pre-Revolutionary jail. The location where Christopher Hager would later build Fulton Hall.A sketch of Lancaster’s pre-Revolutionary jail. The location where Christopher Hager would later build Fulton Hall.

Grant, Cary (1904-1986) Once told by an interviewer, “Everybody would like to be Cary Grant,” Grant is said to have replied, “So would I.” His early years in Bristol, England, would have been an ordinary lower-middle-class childhood except for one extraordinary event. At age nine, he came home from school one day and was told his mother had gone off to a seaside resort. The real truth, however, was that she had been placed in a mental institution, where she would remain for years, and he was never told about it (he wouldn’t see his mother again until he was in his late 20s). He left school at 14, lying about his age and forging his father’s signature on a letter to join Bob Pender‘s troupe of knockabout comedians. He learned pantomime as well as acrobatics as he toured with the Pender troupe in the English provinces, picked up a Cockney accent in the music halls in London, and then in July 1920, was one of the eight Pender boys selected to go to the US. Their show on Broadway, “Good Times,” ran for 456 performances, giving Grant time to acclimatize. He would stay in America. Mae West wanted Grant for She Done Him Wrong (1933) because she saw his combination of virility, sexuality and the aura and bearing of a gentleman. Grant was young enough to begin the new career of fatherhood when he stopped making movies at age 62. One biographer said Grant was alienated by the new realism in the film industry. In the 1950s and early 1960s, he had invented a man-of-the-world persona and a style–“high comedy with polished words.” In To Catch a Thief (1955), he and Grace Kelly were allowed to improvise some of the dialogue. They knew what the director, Alfred Hitchcock, wanted to do with a scene, they rehearsed it, put in some clever double entendres that got past the censors, and then the scene was filmed. His biggest box-office success was another Hitchcock 1950s film, North by Northwest (1959) made with Eva Marie Saint since Kelly was by that time Princess of Monaco. Source

She Done Him Wrong (1933) trailer

West & Grant in "I'm no Angel." 1933

                                      Cary Grant and Mae West

Graumman’s – The grand opening of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was in Hollywood on May 18, 1927. The Graumman’s Chinese Theatre is the most sought-after theatre in Hollywood for studio premieres.  Rich in movie tradition, with its cement handprints and footprints in the forecourt, the Chinese Theatre immortalizes the brightest stars. More than four million visitors from all over the world visit The Chinese Theatre every year.

On January 11, 2013, the world famous Chinese Theatre announced that they would be teaming up with one of China’s biggest electronics manufacturers, TCL, aka “The Creative Life” in a 10-year naming rights partnership.  With this partnership, TCL and the Chinese Theatre have plans to preserve a legacy that was created more than 85 years ago and will continue for many years to come. The legacy of the Chinese Theatre is to be a leader in exhibition, to be at the forefront of new technology, to push the envelope and to offer patrons the best experience possible.

Hearn, Ed:  In 1928, Mae West cast her friend, a 40-year-old gay actor (Ed Hearn) in Pleasure Man as Toto, a retired performer who hosts a colorful drag ball in Act 3, which is set in the drawing room of Toto’s apartment. On October 1, 1928, Hearn was arrested with the rest of the cast at the Biltmore Theatre and, along with Mae West, he had to defend the play in court.

Movies Mae West and Edward Hearn worked together on was My Little Chickadee (1940) and I’m No Angel (1933)  Source

Hays, Will (1879-1954)– Prominent American political figure who was president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA, later called the Motion Picture Association of America) from 1922 to 1945. Because of his pervasive influence on the censorship office of the association, it was known as the Hays Office.

Hays, a politically active lawyer, became the chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1918. He spearheaded Warren G. Harding’s successful front-porch campaign for the presidency of the United States in 1920 and the following year was appointed postmaster general (1921–22). In 1922, after the occurrence of a number of scandals involving Hollywood personalities, the leaders of the motion-picture industry formed the self-regulating MPPDA to counteract the threat of government censorship of films and to create favourable publicity for the industry. Hays was offered a position as president. As a respected national politician and dignified elder in the Presbyterian Church, Hays brought prestige to the organization. He initiated a moral blacklist in Hollywood, inserted morals clauses in actors’ contracts, and in 1930 was one of the authors of the Production Code, a detailed enumeration of what was morally acceptable on the screen, which was not supplanted until 1966.

Will H. Hays (Byname William Harrison Hays)

Hearst, William (1863-1951) William Randolph Hearst dominated journalism for nearly a half century.  Born in San Francisco, California, on April 29, 1863, William Randolph Hearst used his wealth and privilege to build a massive media empire. A founder of “yellow journalism,” he was praised for his success and vilified by his enemies. At one point, he considered running for the U.S. presidency. The Great Depression took a toll on Hearst’s company and his influence gradually waned, though his company survived. Hearst died in Beverly Hills, California, in 1951.

In 1934 she earned $340,000 and the next year $480,833–it was the second highest salary in the country, exceeded only by that of William Randolph Hearst, who once editorialized, “Isn’t it time Congress did something about Mae West?” Source

William Randolph Hearst

                 William Randolph Hearst

 Irving, John: modern American novelist, has written thirteen novels over the course of his prolific career, nine of which have been international bestsellers.  In 2000, John Irving won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules, Lasse Hallström’s film adaptation of Irving’s sixth novel.  Other film adaptations of John Irving novels include Terry Richardson’s The Hotel New Hampshire, George Roy Hill’s The World According to Garp, and Tod Williams’s The Door in the Floor—adapted from his ninth novel, A Widow for One Year.

A competitive wrestler for twenty years, until he was thirty-four, and a coach of the sport until he was forty-seven, John Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1992.

 Keaton, Buster (1895-1966) Comedian and director popular for pioneering silent comedies in the 1920s.

Buster Keaton

Photo: Keaton Buster

Knights of Columbus: Thanks to the efforts of Father Michael J. McGivney, assistant pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven and some of his parishioners, the Connecticut state legislature on March 29, 1882, officially chartered the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal benefit society. The Order is still true to its founding principles of charity, unity and fraternity.

The Knights was formed to render financial aid to members and their families. Mutual aid and assistance are offered to sick, disabled and needy members and their families. Social and intellectual fellowship is promoted among members and their families through educational, charitable, religious, social welfare, war relief and public relief works. Source

Lamont, Margie:  Margie Lamont is the lead character in Sex. West wrote Sex under the pen name Jane Mast, and the role of Margie LaMont gave the 32-year-old performer her first starring role on Broadway. Margie is a prostitute working in Montreal’s red-light district with a steady clientele and a tough attitude. Ready to break from her unscrupulous pimp, she takes the advice of a British naval officer to “follow the fleet,” and she sets up business in Trinidad, where she meets a young blueblood from the States unaware of her background. He proposes marriage, then takes Margie to the family estate to meet his high-society folks — where many, many complications ensue.

Loew’s Circuit – Began as a chain of nickelodeons that paired small-time vaudeville with one-reel flickers.  Marcus Loew started with four theatres he leased from Lee Shubert, acquired a lot more and built 150.  All told, he had in excess of 200 theatres playing vaudeville and movies, plus arrangements with other, smaller circuits, including Ackerman and Harris, which made Loew’s one of the largest singer bookers of vaude acts and perhaps the largest single chain booking films.

When big-time vaudeville faded into the storied past by 1932, Lowe’s operation was prospering.  At vaudeville’s eclipse in the 1930’s, Loew’s time was often the only game in town, and former two-a-day headliners were happy to play the circuit from which they once graduated.  For one thing, a deal was a deal with Lowe’s.  There were no blacklists.  Performers felt fairly treated.  Loew’s could still offer an extensive route and keep an act working full time.
Although vaudeville had effectively vanished by the end of the Second World War, a few singular outposts lingered.  Loew’s State Theatre, which opened August 29, 1921 in Time Square, was the last house to book vaudeville acts steadily.  It ceased playing vaudeville on December 23, 1947.

Lubitsch, Ernst (1892-1947) From Ernst Lubitsch’s experiences in Sophien Gymnasium (high school) theater, he decided to leave school at the age of 16 and pursue a career on the stage. He had to compromise with his father and keep the account books for the family tailor business while he acted in cabarets and music halls at night. In 1911 he joined the Deutsches Theater of famous director/producer/impresario Max Reinhardt, and was able to move up to leading acting roles in a short time. He took an extra job as a handyman while learning silent film acting at Berlin’s Bioscope film studios.

The next year he launched his own film career by appearing in a series of comedies showcasing traditional ethnic Jewish slice-of-life fare. Finding great success in these character roles, Lubitsch turned to broader comedy, then beginning in 1914 started writing and directing his own films.  is breakthrough film came in 1918 with Die Augen der Mumie Ma (1918) (“The Eyes of the Mummy”), a tragedy starring future Hollywood star Pola Negri.  Also that year he made Carmen (1918), again with Negri, a film that was commercially successful on the international level. His work already showed his genius for catching the eye as well as the ear in not only comedy but historical drama. Certainly two of his most beloved films near the end of his career dealt with the political landscape of the World War II era. He moved to MGM, where he directed Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas in Ninotchka (1939), a fast-paced comedy of “decadent” Westerners meeting Soviet “comrades” who were seeking more of life than the mother country could–or would–offer.   Click to read source material and read more here.

Ernst Lubitsch

Ernst Lubitsch

Man Fook Low – Located in Market Chinatown and opened in 1928, it was arguably the first restaurant to serve dim sum in Los Angeles, offering chasu pork buns, hargow and shumai as early as the 1930s. It became a favorite of actress Mae West.  — Man Fook Low closed in 1990.

Chowing at her favorite Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles, 1972, at age 79.

  • Margaret Herrick Library – The Margaret Herrick Library is a world-renowned, non-circulating reference and research collection devoted to the history and development of the motion picture as an art form and an industry. Established in 1928 and now located in Beverly Hills, the library is open to the public and used year-round by students, scholars, historians and industry professionals.

Margaret Herrick Library

  • McLaglen, Victor (1886-1959): Rambunctious British leading man of Scottish ancestry, not Irish, and later character actor primarily in American films, Victor McLaglen was a vital presence in a number of great motion pictures. He won the Oscar in the 1935 film The Informer.  He toured in circuses, vaudeville shows, and Wild West shows, often as a fighter challenging all comers.

In “Klondike Annie,” Victor McLaglen is Bull Brackett, a besotted ship’s captain in love with Rose Carlton, Mae West’s character. “You ain’t no oil painting — — but you’re a fascinatin’ monster,” Rose tells Bull.   According to the blog Faded-Video-Labels: Mae later admitted to Charlotte Chandler that the reason Victor McLaglen got the gig was “because I’d been eating too much… He was not only tall, but big and bulky, so he was great for the part of Bull Brackett and he made me look petite.”  Source

Mae West & Victor McLaglen in Klondike Annie Original Vintage Photograph 1936

The character JOE FRISCO remarked, “I use to play the Palace, now I play the horses” (Shear, 13).

Moreno, Kid: lightwelterweight boxer (never won a title)

Palace – Popular, long-running Saturday night variety show (1964-1970) featuring revolving guest hosts, usually a singer or comedian, each week. Bing Crosby was the most frequent guest host.  Other frequent guest hosts included Sammy Davis, Jr., Jimmy Durante, Don Adams, Fred Astaire, and Judy Garland.  Click to watch a YouTube video of the final show featuring highlights from the season’s run.

The AVALON theater is one of Hollywood’s most historic landmarks. From The Beatles first West Coast performance in 1964 to ABC’s hit television variety show ‘The Hollywood Palace’ to Sasha’s first West Coast DJ residency, the theater at Hollywood & Vine has been a show business epicenter since opening in 1927.

 Charlie: And you saved Paramount from bankruptcy.

Mae: That’s right, that’s right (Shear, 32).

Paramount Pictures bankruptcy (as noted in the script): In the late 1920s and ’30s the studio added to its roster such stars as Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier, W.C. Fields, and Bing Crosby. Although it continued to produce films that were artistically and financially successful, it suffered losses from its chain of theatres during the transition to sound, and Paramount was declared bankrupt in 1933.  It was reorganized two years later as Paramount Pictures, Inc., and was soon profitable again.

She Done Him Wrong” was followed quickly by “I’m No Angel.” In one scene, Mae, upbraided by a wronged wife, ushered the lady out the door and, burdened by boredom and disdain, turned back to the cameras. “Beulah,” she called as she sashayed across the screen, “peel me a grape.”
The two movies made Mae West very famous and very rich. In 1934 she earned $340,000 and the next year $480,833–it was the second highest salary in the country, exceeded only by that of William Randolph Hearst, who once editorialized, “Isn’t it time Congress did something about Mae West?” Her self-assured swagger, her adenoidal and ungrammatical Brooklynese (one of her best lines was “diamonds is my ca-re-a,” and she still says “pernt”), her joyous celebration of sexual delights became known around the world”  Reference source

Pasolini, Pier Paolo (1922-1975): achieved fame and notoriety long before he entered the film industry. A published poet at 19, he had already written numerous novels and essays before his first screenplay in 1954. His first film Accattone (1961) was based on his own novel and its violent depiction of the life of a pimp in the slums of Rome caused a sensation. He was arrested in 1962 when his contribution to the portmanteau film Ro.Go.Pa.G. (1963) was considered blasphemous and given a suspended sentence. It might have been expected that his next film, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964) (The Gospel According to St. Matthew), which presented the Biblical story in a totally realistic, stripped-down style, would cause a similar fuss but, in fact, it was rapturously acclaimed as one of the few honest portrayals of Christ on screen. Its original Italian title pointedly omitted the Saint in St. Matthew). Pasolini’s film career would then alternate distinctly personal and often scandalously erotic adaptations of classic literary texts: Oedipus Rex (1967) (Oedipus Rex); The Decameron (1971); The Canterbury Tales (1972) (The Canterbury Tales); Arabian Nights (1974) (Arabian Nights), with his own more personal projects, expressing his controversial views on Marxism, atheism, fascism and homosexuality, notably Teorema (1968) (Theorem), Pigsty and the notorious Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975), a relentlessly grim fusion of Benito Mussolini‘s Fascist Italy with the ‘Marquis de Sade’ which was banned in Italy and many other countries for several years. Pasolini was murdered in still-mysterious circumstances shortly after completing the film. Source

Pier Paolo Pasolini Picture                                               Pier Paolo Pasolini

 Poli, Sylvester (1859-1937) A self-described commoner who had come to America  (left Italy at age 21 for New York City) with virtually nothing. He enjoyed living among the working poor. Ultimately, he owned 28 vaudeville and movie theaters throughout New England, including Waterbury’s Palace Theater and New Haven’s Bijou Theater which he created. He built other movie houses that each seated well more than a thousand people in cities known for their blue-collar character: Bridgeport and Hartford in Connecticut; Worcester, Massachusetts; and Scranton, Pennsylvania. Source

Sylvester Poli

  Sylvester Poli

Poli’s Theatre, New Haven Connecticut –

Poli's Palace Theatre, Waterbury

Poli’s Palace Theatre, Waterbury, 1929 (c)George Mann – Brad Smith – See more at: http://connecticuthistory.org/sylvester-poli-negotiating-cultural-politics-in-an-age-of-immigration/#sthash.VmK78Vab.dpuf

Reverend Kelly: Universalist minister who attracted and won over Broadway and movie icon Mae West
Excerpt below taken from article The Religious Affiliations of Actress Mae West
In the fall of 1941, she discovered an advertisement in a Los Angeles newspaper for a spiritualist convention where a Universalist minister, the Reverend Jack Kelly, was lecturing on extrasensory perception. She dispatched Jim Timony to investigate, and he returned with glowing reports of Kelly’s remarkable abilities. After meeting Kelly and testing his ESP, she began studying his teachings and techniques. He became Mae’s frequent guest when in Los Angeles, and she supported his ministry with generous contributions.
Still seeking assurance of eternal life, West became determined to develop her own psychic abilities. She solicited assistance from the Reverend Mae M. Taylor of the Spiritualis Science Church of Hollywood, who instructed her on communicating directly with the spirit world. Taylor taught a meditative technique that encouraged practitioners to banish all conscious thoughts so that “the inner voice” could be clearly discerned. West worked diligently to achieve a meditative state; for three weeks she sequestered herself each day in a darkened room, striving to cleanse her mind and seeking a connection with the spiritual realm.
Finally, in the third week, she claimed to have a breakthrough. She began to hear psychic voices, and before long their images became clear. In later years, she told of her first visit from a small female child named Juliet, who greeted her with “Good morning, good morning, good morning, dear.” Next came a deep masculine voice, emanating, she asserted, from her solar plexus; his speech, peppered with “thees” and “thous,” was completely incomprehensible to her. She received a visitation from her mother, dressed in black, telling her, “There’s so much to do . . . there are so many to bring over.” According to her recollections, the visions became so frequent that she could hardly sleep at night. Finally, one night a ring of spirits, mostly men attired in Victorian dress, floated agove her bed, continuing to chatter. She told one interviewer that, exhausted, she pleaded, “I have to get my sleep. I’m a working girl! Could we cut down on the visits?” While they appeared less regularly, she claimed to have visions for the rest of her life.
Excerpt below taken from a New York Times article dated July 25, 1926
She starts work, she says, by settling the beginning and end of a story, then dictates to a secretary for three to four hours a day. Current and future projects include scenarios of her play “The Constant Sinner” and her play and novel “Pleasure Man,” and a prose adaptation of “The Drag.” Agent Irving Lazar is handling the American version of her book “Sex, Health and ESP” (“It’s already a big seller in England”), and she’s completing “The Amazing Mr. Kelly,” a biography of the Reverend Jack Kelly, who “passed on” 10 years ago.
“He was the world’s greatest psychic. And he’s come back. I always figured when you’re dead, you’re dead, but I wanted to know the truth. I had this yogi master travelin’ with me for five years, I gave him a hotel suite, a car, everything, but he never convinced me. Then one day a few years ago, I come into this room from my boudoir, and there was Mr. Kelly, sittin’ right there were you are, on that couch. I screamed for Paul, who was in my chamber answerin’ fan mail. Some it’s addressed just to ‘Mae West, Hollywood,’ and they deliver it. Anyway, Paul runs in, and Mr. Kelly vanished. An’ I don’t kid myself or have mystical illusions. I never drink or take anything.”
She has witnessed other manifestations, too. Her deceased brother and pet woolly monkey appeared to her, separately, on the cornice of her bedroom wall. “And several groups of handsome young men have come and stood beside my bed. I extended my hand to them, like this, and they disappeared.”
The Cheshire smile, the seductive murmur in the silence following her remarks, again imply the put-on. But evidently she is quite serious this time, at least about Reverend Kelly. “I was already workin’ on his biography, see, an’ he came back to show me there is an afterlife, so now I know.” She sounded utterly logical  Source
Other Resource:
The Psychic World of Kenny Kingston: Mae West

Sahara Hotel and Casino:  Currently the SLS Hotel & Casino owned by SBE Entertainment and Stockbridge Real Estate, the property reopened on August 23, 2014 after a $415 million renovation as part of SBE’s chain of SLS hotels.

Before the renovation, the hotel was formerly known as the Sahara Hotel and Casino. It was in operation under that name for 59 years from 1952 to 2011.

Performers at the resort over the years have included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Lena Horne, Jack Benny, Tony Bennett, Paul Anka, George Carlin, Liza Minnelli, Violetta Villas, Shirley Bassey, Wayne Newton, Imogene Coca, Eleanor Powell, The Platters, Connie Francis, Bill Cosby, Jeanette MacDonald, Ann-Margret, The Mills Brothers, Louis Prima, Joey Bishop, Shelley Berman, Donald O’Connor, Buddy Hackett, Helen O’Connell, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Kay Starr, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, The Drifters, Don Rickles, Bobby Darin, Teresa Graves, The Coasters, Taya Parker, Sandler and Young, Sonny & Cher and many others. In 1964 The Beatles stayed at the Sahara and played two shows at the nearby Las Vegas Convention Center.

The Sahara shutdown on May 16, 2011 marking the end of a 59-year run on the Strip. SBE chief executive Sam Nazarian stated that the hotel was not “economically viable”. Nazarian said that he would help the 1,600 hotel workers find new jobs. Its closure left only the Tropicana, Flamingo, Riviera, Caesars Palace and the Circus Circus remaining from the pre-1969 era.  Article Source

 Sahara Hotel and Casino

Savoy, Bert: Popular Vaudeville performer/ female impersonator in the team of Savoy and Brennan.  Savoy built his performances around jokes about “her” mythical room-mate, Margy, whom he gave the same mischief – loving characteristics.  A newspaper clipping believed to have been taken from a 1919 newspaper Savoy’s jokes.  Savoy told of a preacher who was “raking Margy over the coals” for jazzing-up her piano playing during Sunday church services.  The preacher tearfully asked her if she had ever heard of the ten commandments.  “Marge” replied, “Don’t know it, preacher … but, if you’ll hum a bit of it for me, I think I can pick out the tune!”  Source
Note: It’s also been widely said that Mae West patterned her own stage persona after Bert Savoy and one of his catch phrases “You Must Come Over” was morphed by her into “Come Up And See Me Sometime.” Source
Schiaparelli, Elsa: (1890-1973)   Based in Paris, Elsa Schiaparelli, known as the Queen of Fashion, was the supreme innovator of dress design in the first half of the 20th century. The Italian-born French couturière Elsa Schiaparelli is best known for the iconoclastic bravado and unrestrained, at times brazen, originality of her work. While her contemporaries Gabrielle Chanel and Madeleine Vionnet set the period’s standards of taste and beauty in fashion design, Schiaparelli flouted convention in the pursuit of a more idiosyncratic style. As much an artist as a dress designer, she commandeered the talents of a host of prominent artisans and artists, most notably those associated with the Surrealist movement. Distilling their disquieting dream-based imagery and provocative concepts through her own creative process, she incorporated themes inspired by contemporaneous events, erotic fantasy, traditional and avant-garde art, and her own psyche into her designs.
"Schiap" in her beloved Paris house.Schiaparelli in her Paris home

Charlie: Her manager, Jim Timony, big Tammany Hall lawyer (Shear, 30).

Sime Silverman (May 19, 1872 – September 23 1933): former vaudeville critic for New York Morning Telegraph, published first issue of Variety December 16, 1905.  He was noted as the founder and owner of the theatrical weekly, Variety

In 1987, Variety was acquired by Cahners Publishing Co., division for about 60 million.
View Source and Read more.
View Secondary source
Read a Variety review by Sime Silverman dated July 1, 1925
Sime Silverman

Tammany Hall: Tammany Hall was a political force in New York City from its 1789 inception as a benevolent association to mayoral campaigns in the 1950s. Frequently its leadership was identical to the Executive Committee of the local Democratic party, and it was a major or controlling faction in the party in 1821-1872 and 1905-1932. Key Tammany bosses through the years included William M. Tweed, Richard F. Croker, and Charles F. Murray.

Although its name was synonymous with corruption to many, Tammany Hall’s popularity and endurance resulted from its willingness to help the city’s poor and immigrant populations. Irish immigrants forced Tammany Hall to admit them as members in 1817, and the Irish thereafter never lost their tie with it. Because in the 1820s Tammany successfully fought to extend the franchise to all propertyless white males, it was popular with the working class. A close association with the Democratic party was also forged in the Jacksonian era. Reference article

Timony, Jim (1886-1954)James A. Timony was a lawyer and Mae West’s manager for 25 years.  The Times noted him as a person who “guided her to success.” He “received major credit for Mae West’ development from a relatively obscure singer and dancer into an internationally known prototype of the American siren.” Reference article

Mae West and James Timony

Mae West and James (Jim) Timony

Raft, George: George Raft was born and grew up in a poor family in Hell’s Kitchen, at the time one of the roughest, meanest areas of New York City. He was born George Ranft, and was the son of Eva (Glockner) and Conrad Ranft, a department store deliveryman. His parents were both of German descent. In his youth, he showed a great interest in, and aptitude for, dancing. That, combined with his dark good looks and sharp dressing, made him a local favorite at such spots as the El Fey Club with Texas Guinan. In 1928, Raft went to Hollywood to try his luck at acting. His first big role was as the coin-tossing henchman in Scarface (1932). His career was marked by numerous tough-guy roles, often a gangster or convict. The believability with which he played these, together with his lifelong associations with such real-life gangsters as Owney Madden and Bugsy Siegel, added to persistent rumors that he was also a gangster. The slightly shady reputation may have helped his popularity early on, but it made him somewhat undesirable to movie executives later in his career. He somewhat parodied his gangster reputation in Billy Wilder‘s Some Like It Hot (1959).  Source


Click to watch a video from Night After Night

George Raft with Mae West, 1977

Ravenswood Apartments –  Address: 570 N Rossmore Ave # A1, Los Angeles, CA 90004 – infamous Hollywood apartment complex Mae West lived in when she died at age 87.   

The entrance to The Ravenswood Apartments where Mae West lived when she died at 91 in 1980.

– Mae West in her Ravenswood apartment

Ravenswood apartments

Shubert Brothers: At the end of the 19th century, the Shubert brothers  Sam (1878-1905), Lee (1871-1953) and J. J. (1879-1963) operated theatres in Syracuse and other upstate New York cities, such as Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Troy, and Albany. In 1900, Sam came to New York City and leased the Herald Square Theatre (NW corner, Broadway & 35th St.), the Shuberts’ first venue in the city. Lee followed him to Manhattan shortly thereafter, while J.J. remained in charge of the upstate theatres. Before long, the Shuberts clashed with the Theatrical Syndicate, an organization of businessmen that had gained virtual control of the American theatre through their booking operations. The conflict continued for more than a decade, until the Syndicate was no longer an effective force and the Shubert brothers had established what was to become America’s largest producing and theatre-owning operation.

They were also major producers, presenting some 500 plays and musical attractions. Among their revues were Americana (1932), Artists and Models, At Home Abroad (1935), Greenwich Village Follies, Hellzapoppin’ (1938), Hooray for What! (1937), Laffin’ Room Only (1943), Life Begins at 8:40 (1934), The Passing Shows, Priorities of 1942, The Show is On (1937), Sons o’ Fun (1941), Straw Hat Revue (1939), The Streets of Paris (1939), and Ziegfeld Follies.
The Shuberts presented many stars in their shows among them were Abbott & Costello, Fred Allen, Eve Arden, Fred and Adele Astaire, Avon Comedy Four, Josephine Baker, Tallullah Bankhead, Ethel, John and Lionel Barrymore, Sarah Bernhardt, Ray Bolger, Fanny Brice, Burns & Allen, Eddie Cantor, Bobby Clark, Imogene Coca, Gaby Deslys, Marie Dressler, Eleanora Duse, Jeanne Eagles, Maxine Elliott, Lew Fields, Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Lulu Glaser, Ruth Gordon, Cary Grant, Walter Hampden, Anna Held, Katharine Hepburn, Raymond Hitchcock, Bob Hope, De Wolfe Hopper, Willie and Eugene Howard, George Jessel, Al Jolson, Bertha Kalich, Danny Kaye, Bert Lahr, Gypsy Rose Lee, Bea Lillie, Jeanette MacDonald, Richard Mansfield, Ilse Marvenga, Philip Merivale, Marilyn Miller, Carmen Miranda, Frank Morgan, Odette Myrtil, Alla Nazimova, Evelyn Nesbit, Olsen & Johnson, Anna Pavlova, Eleanor Powell, Lillian Russell, Ethel Shutta, Sothern and Marlowe, Vivian Vance, Lupe Velez, Ethel Waters, Clifton Webb, Mae West, Bert Williams, Walter Woolf, Peggy Wood, and Ed Wynn.  Source

J.J. and Lee Shubert, 1920s

Sunset Boulevard (1950): Directed by Billy Wilder.  Story consists of “A hack screenwriter (who)writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity.  Source

Sunset Blvd. (1950) Poster

Wallace, Frank –  stage name     (Frank Szatkus real name) Sometime between 1909 and 1910, Mae West met Frank Wallace, an up-and-coming vaudeville song-and-dance man. The story goes that Wallace was introduced to West by her mother, Tillie, who saw an opportunity to have her team up with a performer who was going places. After a few weeks of intense rehearsal, they formed an act and went out on the burlesque circuit.   Wallace proposed marriage to her several times, but she refused, instead having affairs with several other male cast members. She was counseled by an older cast member, Etta Wood, about her “wicked ways” and stressed that marriage would offer her protection against being alone and pregnant. From this, West married Frank Wallace on April 11, 1911, 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.  Death date is unknown.

Note: Mae West and Frank Wallace divorced in 1942.

Wilder, Billy (1906-2002): Originally planning to become a lawyer, Billy Wilder abandoned that career in favor of working as a reporter for a Viennese newspaper, using this experience to move to Berlin, where he worked for the city’s largest tabloid. He broke into films as a screenwriter in 1929, and wrote scripts for many German films until Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Wilder immediately realized his Jewish ancestry would cause problems, so he emigrated to Paris, then the US. Although he spoke no English when he arrived in Hollywood, Wilder was a fast learner, and thanks to contacts such as Peter Lorre (with whom he shared an apartment), he was able to break into American films. His partnership with Charles Brackett started in 1938 and the team was responsible for writing some of Hollywood’s classic comedies, including Ninotchka (1939) and Ball of Fire (1941). The partnership expanded into a producer-director one in 1942, with Brackett producing, and the two turned out such classics as Five Graves to Cairo (1943), The Lost Weekend (1945) (Oscars for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay) and Sunset Blvd. (1950) (Oscars for Best Screenplay), after which the partnership dissolved. (Wilder had already made one film, Double Indemnity (1944) without Brackett, as the latter had refused to work on a film he felt dealt with such disreputable characters.) Wilder’s subsequent self-produced films would become more caustic and cynical, notably Ace in the Hole (1951), though he also produced such sublime comedies as Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960) (which won him Best Picture and Director Oscars). He retired in 1981.

View the Source article to learn more

Billy Wilder Picture

Wood, Natalie (1938-1981) When she was just four years old, Natalie appeared in her first film, Happy Land (1943). In 1946 Natalie tested for a role in Tomorrow Is Forever (1946). She was only seven at the time, and flunked the screen test. Natalie’s mother convinced the studio heads to give her another test, and this time she was convincing enough that they gave Natalie the role. In 1947’s Miracle on 34th Street (1947), she won the hearts of movie patrons around the country as Susan Walker.   A few noted films she has appeared in was Splendor in the Grass (1961), West Side Story (1961), Gypsy (1962), and Love with the Proper Stranger (1963).   Before her unexpected passing in 1981, Natalie had made 56 films for TV and the silver screen.

Natalie Wood

Picture of Natalie Wood

Yalies: The script references the gentlemen from Yale liking Mae West performance.  This incident is taking from the archives of history.  Look below to learn more.

Her new act was with two dancers from Vera Violetta Harry Laughlin and Bobby O’Neill, who was called “the Grand Brothers.”  Mae was a big hit with male students from Yale University, located in New Haven.
They would come running down the aisles singing “Boola Boola” right before it was time for her to perform, upsetting the rest of the audience and the entertainer or stage.
Mae was fired after the third show (HER WIGGLES COST MAE WEST HER JOB the headline read) and the Yalies destroyed the theater.  View Source article
Triad Stage

Triad Stage is a North Carolina theater company that produces and performs live, professional theater in the Piedmont Triad region. With local and national talent, a focus on artistic excellence, and a distinctly Southern voice, Triad Stage offers a wide sampling of quality theater, including original works and re-imagined classics. You can see Triad Stage’s work at two world-class performance venues in the state: The Pyrle Theater in Greensboro and Hanesbrands Theatre in Winston-Salem.

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