Movie Stars: West, Mae–Pre-Code and Beyond

Paramount was in bankruptcy, until Mae West, the new movie star, who was not young in age, gave a powerful life out of the mire of the early Depression years.

In quick succession made: Night After Night, She Done Him Wrong, and I’m No Angel. 

She Done Him Wrong was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.

Each movie made more money than the previous one.

There was always a visible tension between her aggressively masculine sexuality and her opulently feminine face and figure.

For many of her fans, especially when she was “rediscovered” by a new generation of viewers, she was like a gay man, trapped in a woman’s body.

She became famous for witty double-entendre, lines charged with erotic imagery.

Lines: “Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?”

“You can be had.”

“It’s better to be looked over than overlooked.”

West was a self-created personality–she wrote her own material and was credited as screenwriter or co-screenwriter.

In many ways, West was a pioneer in free expression of sexuality on the big screen.

West’s image was neither that of the sweet, good-hearted ingenue. Instead, she promoted the vision of strong, powerful women, determined to take charge of their lives.

West’s stardom was short, roughly from 1932 to 1936, and especially in 1933-1934.

She only made a dozen or so films in toto.