Dare to Be Daring: The Story of Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich, a German artist known for excellent work, is among the most popular singers and Hollywood actors of the early twentieth century. She astonished the world with her boldness, attractiveness, and platinum voice, leaving an entire generation of young people craving to get older faster.

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She was a successful German actress in the film industry, at a time when it seemed like the world stood still due to World Wars that were happening, with Germany at the forefront. She was a game-changer, and here are some not-so-easy-to-forget facts about Marlene Dietrich.

Had to Be a Mummy’s Girl

Marlene was born in 1901, and when she became six, her father, a police lieutenant, fell from a horse and died as a result of sustained injuries. As custom demanded, her mother remarried shortly after, but her stepfather, a soldier in Kaiser’s army, was slain in World War I.

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As a child, handling such big losses is no laughing matter. Some have speculated that Marlene’s distant behavior and recklessness down the line were linked to all of these losses. It’s uncertain, yet people took pleasure in thinking around this idea. We can never know.

Carving Out Her Identity

Even though her real name wasn’t Marlene, it wasn’t absurd because entertainers often used stage names back then. But her story is a little different. She was born Marie Magdalene Dietrich, but her friends and family nicknamed her “Lena,” and somehow it cleverly evolved into “Marlene”.

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As her connections coined this name, Marlene loved it and carried it graciously. She started calling herself by this name when she was just eleven years old. However, it’s almost like fate played the game right by preparing a fantastic name for the future.

Moving as an Only Child

Marlene had an elder sister, but when she became popular, she claimed to be an only child. People asked questions and got explanations. During World War II, Elizabeth and her husband George ran a cinema business in the village of Belsen, and Nazis working at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp were their main customers.

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Marlene considered this unacceptable, and she was obviously horrified, which is why she has pretended to be an only child for so long. You might have done the same thing when you find your only sibling somewhere on the other side of a deadly and horrific long-lasting war.

Another String Attached for Marlene

Surprisingly, young Marlene had no intention of becoming an actor in the future. Despite the fact that she went on to be a successful actor later in life, her first love was still music. Her first ambition as a child was to become a concert violinist.

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She was actually quite talented, and a future in music was promising. But a hand injury at the age of 18 prevented her from playing as she used to, so she gave up chasing new opportunities. Her acting career, on the other hand, benefited from the loss of interest in music.

Wedding in a Hurry

Marlene also met her husband Rudolf Sieber in the entertainment field. He met Dietrich when she was 22 years old in 1923, and he was an assistant casting director. She was sent to audition as an extra at the studio where he worked in Berlin.

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He had an idea during the audition and advised Marlene to wear her hair up. It landed her a role in the film and it sparked a beautiful friendship. They married in May of that year, and seven months later they had a kid together.

A Beautifully Distant Union

The couples married but did not live together, as they both worked very far apart. Marlene was always busy with her career as a movie actress, yet if asked, both would say they were happily married. She often described Sieber as “the perfect husband and father.”

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Sieber had a mildly quirky personality. He eventually moved to a ranch in San Fernando Valley because he was bored of life in big cities. He was uninterested in publicity and in popularity, and those close to him claim that he was an all-around decent guy.

More than Just a Baby

Although Marlene did the best in dispensing her motherly duties, she saw children as an added stress, and this is most likely why she never had more than one—Maria Riva. This baby eventually became priceless to her mother, who referred to her as “the child” on several occasions.

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Maria skipped school in her early years, instead working as a personal assistant. She was carried along from set-to-set handling different tasks for her mother, including autographing fan letters, and even assisting in the dressing of her mother. Definitely not the average childhood.

The Breakthrough Performance

Dietrich’s breakthrough performance came in the 1930 film The Blue Angel, and the world marveled. Despite the fact that many versions of the story exist, director Josef von Sternberg claims in his memoir that it was Dietrich’s attitude at the audition that convinced him to cast her.

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According to the narrative, Dietrich believed she had no chance of landing the part, so she approached it with a calm disposition. It was just what von Sternberg envisioned for the role, and so Marlene’s being on road to become the celebrity we all know today, then began.

Bubbly Mood for Great News

Dietrich found out about her big break while hanging out with pals at Berlin’s Silhouette Club. Friedrich Holländer, the film’s composer, was the one who discovered the success numbers reported for the movie and shared the news. The word quickly traveled throughout the club and it was celebrated.

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Dietrich then placed an order for a large enough quantity of champagne to bathe in, which was promptly consumed. That’s how you celebrate excellent news, with a great bubbly time!

Beauty for the Screens

Hollywood’s beauty standards are notoriously strict, and stars have chosen whether or not to conform to these standards. After the worldwide success of ”The Blue Angel” that brought her big break, her agent, von Sternberg, drastically altered her image and she shed around 30 pounds.

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Her brows were also plucked and molded into penciled arcs, her hair was lightened, and she had her cheeks hollowed out and her nose narrowed with makeup. Many referred to von Sternberg as her “Svengali,” and Dietrich herself stated that he “breathed life into nothingness.”

A Scandalous Home-Wrecking Ball

As Marlene moved to America, she was handed her first scandal. She had an affair with her agent while filming The Blue Angel, and both of them intended to flee to New York and make films together in America for the rest of their lives.

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Josef von Sternberg’s wife, Riza Royce, found out and was upset. Riza served her husband and his mistress legal papers. Dietrich received documents informing her that she was being sued for libel and alienation of affection, and Royce filed for divorce from von Sternberg shortly after.

Only the Beginning of Experiments

This was far from Dietrich’s final romance, and she was regarded doubly scandalous at the time due to her proclivity for sleeping with both sexes. Her affairs were numerous and diverse, as she was an outspoken bisexual even though society wasn’t so progressive at the time.

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She also showed very little shame about her choices in partners, which was rare at the time. Her European ancestors, she admitted, were to blame. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a woman in Europe—we make love to anyone we find attractive,” she says.

All a Work in Progress

While Dietrich’s carefree sexual activities are now typically seen as sexually woke and progressive, not all of her sexual behaviors are. According to her grandson, she had a long streak and believed that sex was all about power and nothing that should be managed by emotions.

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Although this attitude is not inherently wrong, her daughter, Maria, was allegedly raped by her lesbian nanny when she was 13 years old. She eventually told her mother, who gave her a less-than-comforting remark, asking her to move on and put it behind her since she’s alive.

Do We Call Marlene Irresponsible?

When Maria wrote her memoir later on, her experiences recounted how her mother had been harsh to her. While being utilized as a miniature personal assistant may sound appealing, it resulted in a sort of transactional relationship between the two of them for the most part.

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Her mother’s days as “Marlene Dietrich” were completely consumed. Her entire life had been committed to being the world’s star, a job she was more than delighted to take on. She had little time to be a real mother to her daughter because of her role.

Marlene Sucking on Lemons before Kissing Action

When it came to on-screen intimacy, Dietrich had some unusual habits. Kissing moments were really easy and yet serious for her because she was recognized around the world as a sensual and sexy actor. Sucking on lemon wedges between takes was her trick to getting them right.

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The exercise seemed to help her maintain her mouth muscles and keep them all ready for the task. So next time you’re kissing your lover and you want to make it extra special by giving it that Tinseltown spice, then pull out the lemon darling.

Kissing a Woman in the Hays Code

Josef von Sternberg also featured Marlene in another sensational movie. In one scene she kisses another woman, and this didn’t sit well with the censors. Dietrich however lobbied for the scene to still be kept, and von Sternberg found a clever way to include it.

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She accepted a flower from the woman before kissing her and offered it to her co-star, Gary Cooper, after the kiss. If censors attempted to remove the kiss, viewers would wonder how a flower appeared out of nowhere. That’s clever and should be applauded duly.

Being the Center of Attention Again

Dietrich, and the famous “Silhouette” she was known for, enjoyed wearing trousers, and not just trousers alone. Marlene would rock full-on tuxedos. A few times, it even put her in trouble. But, more crucially, her fondness for them gave birth to the nickname “Dietrich Silhouette,” which is yet again an awesome fashion statement.

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This was a look that highlighted her tiny hips and broad shoulders, and it was made possible by the slim fit of her pantsuits. Marlene had all of these trousers custom-made for her because off-the-rack styles didn’t fit her “abnormal” figure and she could also afford the purchase.

What’s the Story with the Underwear?

In Hollywood, Marlene Dietrich faced a strong competitor in the form of Greta Garbo, her Swedish counterpart. They frequently went out looking for the same roles and seemed to be pretty competitive about it. They always claimed, however, that they had never met in person.

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The denials, on the other hand, contradicted some of their prior remarks about each other. In conversation, Marlene described Greta’s figure as “oddly specific,” and she once joked that the actress wore “filthy underpants.” People concluded this rivalry and banter was from a romance gone sour.

It’s All about love

Dietrich sleeping with Garbo wouldn’t be shocking at all. Many of the names of persons Marlene was involved with were in her diaries, and it included names like Ernest Hemingway, Gary Cooper, Edith Piaf, and the Cuban poet (and Greta Garbo’s reputed lover) Mercedes D’Acosta.

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According to most accounts, she had an insatiable thirst for romance, taking up to three partners in a single day. When did she find time to make movies with such a hectic schedule? Maybe it was an anti-all-work-and-no-play philosophy that Marlene lived by.

A Bad Time and Idea to Be a Nazi

Hitler and his Reich Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, were both huge Marlene Dietrich enthusiasts. They tried to persuade her to return to Germany and express her support for the Nazis, multiple times, as her fame soared. But they were unsuccessful, making it a full loss for them.

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Dietrich was not a Nazi sympathizer in any shape or form. She remained in the United States, eventually asking for citizenship, and in the interim, she made many anti-Nazi proclamations and made anti-Nazi propaganda albums in German for the US Office of Strategic Services, which later became the CIA.

A Hero of the United States

Marlene’s anti-Nazi efforts were so widespread that she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1945, which was the highest civilian honor. It was never easy for anyone to rise up against the Fascist, racist movement, but Marlene did this even as a superstar with no apologies.

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She called that achievement “one of the proudest moments“ of her life, which is high praise considering her entire cinematic career and the millions, it seems, of other incredible things she accomplished throughout her life. Overall, she was a true American hero, and the honor was well deserved.

No Country for a Woman—Home and Away

Despite her achievements, she was never fully assimilated into society. She was a hard-working woman and followed her passion, yet she felt like an outsider in the United States. Many Americans were wary of her since she was still a German woman whom Hitler was trying to win over for their effort.

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Germans, on the other hand, were sometimes conflicted or distant toward her as a result of her rejection of Hitler and the Nazis. Many people could never view her as anything but a traitor. As a result, she never felt completely at ease in any location.

Was Marlene a German Spy?

The United States also had a hard time trusting Marlene. Despite her demonstrable assistance to America’s war effort, the FBI ‘s director at the time had full distrust for Dietrich and spent several hours of the Bureau’s manpower trying to prove she was a spy.

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Her every move was monitored, and her works were inspected and examined. They didn’t find anything that proved she was a spy. But it must have been painful to spend a significant portion of your life serving a country, only to have them secretly investigate you.

Mae Is Out to Have a Good Time

While Dietrich was notorious for having a frigid side and having few close friends (despite her numerous boyfriends), she did have one Hollywood friendship that lasted and prospered above and beyond the majority of her peers. We’re talking about her strong connection with actress Mae West.

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West was one of the few people “in the room” who could tell Dietrich the truth. Because of their closeness and Dietrich’s reputation, speculations that the two were romantically engaged began to circulate. Dietrich’s daughter, on the other hand, claims that they were simply good friends.

Marlene Made Her Own Fashion and Its Rules

Despite being one of the most fashionable women in the world, Dietrich was unconcerned about fashion. She stated in an interview that perhaps if she dressed solely for herself, all we would see her wear was jeans because fashion was boring, and she dresses only to fit her status in the public eye.

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She had a strong preference for simply slacks and jeans. It’s fascinating to consider how we think we know these public figures, how we see them as style icons, when in reality, as Marlene herself put it, it was for the sake of the image.

What Rumors Are behind the Walls of the White House

Her image did give her access even to the most powerful. Claims are she had a sex affair with John F. Kennedy. By his invitation, Dietrich went to the White House for cocktails. The whole thing reportedly took twenty minutes, and they didn’t see each other again after.

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Kennedy, however, appears to have one essential question for her. In the 1930s, she was a friend of John Kennedy’s father. He was curious to know if her friendship with his father was in any way sexual. Kennedy expressed excitement when Marlene said they weren’t sexually involved.

It’s Painful to Be Beautiful and More

Dietrich clung to her sexy look for as long as she could, but age spares no one and she had to get creative to keep her body looking the way she wanted, especially when she became a full-time cabaret singer and only performed in live theater later on in life.

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She began by wearing bodystockings to keep her contours in place and applying tape to her face to give herself non-surgical facelifts. However, life took its toll in the end, and a sequence of mishaps, including a fractured leg, caused her to leave the stage.

Taking the Music to the Hospital

Dietrich lived till 80 years old, albeit she gradually became bedridden. She at one point received a piece of fan mail. On noticing the fan was a doctor she chose to reach out, and they formed a long-distance friendship. The doctor offered to pay her a visit in Paris but she declined.

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For several weeks, she refused to speak to him. When they reconnected, he revealed that he’d been paying a shrink to help him process the anguish of being cut off from her. She told him that instead of the money he was spending, she would sing for him a couple times a week.

The End of a Legend

Dietrich died of kidney failure in 1992 in Paris. She was 90 years old. Her funeral drew some 1,500 people, including diplomats. Flowers were laid on her coffin by French President François Mitterrand, and her three awarded decorations were exhibited in honor of her work resisting the Nazis.

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The priest made remarks that showed her daring nature. In her testament, Dietrich said that she wanted to be buried in Berlin, the city where she was born. Initially, she shunned burial in Germany, but changed her mind after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and her body was transported there. Josefine von Losch, her mother, is buried very close to her.

Every Penny Was Well Spent

Marlene Dietrich had a net worth of $10 million when she died. After accounting for inflation, that equates to about $20 million in today’s money. By any standard, this isn’t horrible. She’d led an eventful life, leaving the world a legacy of sensuality, flawless performances, and Nazi combat.

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Her movies are still being watched, her songs are still being sung, and her name is still associated with sensuality and beauty. In her own day, Marlene Dietrich was a legend. It’s hard to deny the gap she left behind when she died. She was a legend in her own right.

Exploring the Adventures of “The Queen of Camp,” Mae West

Mae carried a certain aura and personality and she commanded attention and stirred controversy anytime she showed off. She carried this presence till her death, and she made unusual innovations. Mae was too hot, too sexy, and too wicked for Hollywood to handle, and so she was censored.

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Also, as daunting as Marlene Dietrich was, keeping up with her as a close friend would have required someone of equal ferocity, wit, and matching energy—and this was perfectly Mae West. Let’s see the life of the lady who was all of these things and more.

What the Beginnings Held

Mary Jane West was born in 1893 in Brooklyn, NY. John Patrick West, a private detective and prizefighter, was her father. Mary’s mother, Matilda Delker, was a corset model and her parents greatly influenced her. Tillie brought with her a different European attitude to sex when she immigrated to America in 1886.

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Mae was put on stage at age 5 by her parents. She began her professional career in vaudeville when she was 14 years old, singing and tap dancing at Elks Club events in Brooklyn. She used the stage name “Baby Mae.”

Go Broadway or Go Home

Soon after, she performed with Frank Wallace on the national vaudeville tour. Her first Broadway engagement was in the 1911 revue named A La Broadway, which was canceled after only eight performances. Mae, being 17 years old, married Frank in the same year and legally divorced him in 1943.

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West was discovered by The New York Times a year after. This was her introduction to Vera Violetta, Louis Stein’s operetta about a professor’s flirty wife. In 1912, she reprised her role as La Petite Daffy, a “baby vamp,” in the premiere of A Winsome Widow.

Favorite Movie—Everybody Shimmies Now

Mae eventually got her big break in the Shubert Brothers revue in 1918. Mayme, her character, brought the show to a halt with a dance called “The Shimmy.” Under the pen name Jane Mast, Mae spent the next five years composing thought-provoking risqué plays and dramas.

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She was writing, directing, producing, and performing in her own productions by 1926. Mae West’s first Broadway play was an explicit production titled Sex, and Madonna followed suit with a photo book of the same title. Critics came for the play and the criticisms made it more popular.

”Sex” Could Not Be Held Back

Sex had its shows cut short because censors made it illegal to perform it, and police invaded the venue. Mae was arrested, along with the rest of the cast, and sentenced to 10 days in jail. She declared that she would defend her work anytime.

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Her efforts were “rewarded” and she enjoyed herself on Welfare Island. Even though she was in jail, she still enjoyed special privileges. The media dubbed her the darling “bad girl” who had ascended the ladder of success act by act after her different publicity stunts.

A Trailblazer Way Ahead of Her Time

Mae West passionately carried a cause. She also sold her diamond collection to raise money for her follow-up play, The Drag. The production dealt with cross-dressing and homosexuality. She was determined to give the LGBTQ community a voice because she had many friends who belonged to the community.

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The Drag’s Broadway run was halted after 10 performances because of concerns made by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. West outrightly stated the concerns of the city’s founders and said she won’t be bringing it to New York due to this reality.

Having to Quit Such a Personal Project

The Drag, according to one Broadway theatrical producer, is “the worst possible play I have ever heard considering an invasion of New York,” and it “strikes at the heart of decency.” This shows more reasons why the city’s fathers would not let the show play to crowds.

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Despite fierce hostility and being banned from Broadway for the second time in less than a year, West remained a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ movement, women’s liberation movement, and employment of Black people, and she spoke out against police violence against homosexual men until the end of her life.

What No One Saw Coming

Modern audiences may not understand why she was so controversial back in the day because her films contain no nudity or cursing. According to the lady herself, her images of “confident, emancipated women” were too much for the time period to tolerate, so it caused some brouhaha.

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When she was denied permission to perform a theater piece in New Haven, Connecticut, this was the most egregious example. Instead of allowing her to perform, the theater manager canceled the event with minutes to go, and a brawl eventually broke out in the theater.

Never New to the News

Pleasure Man (a heterosexual remake of The Drag that is still highly sexual) and The Constant Sinner were among Mae West’s many controversial productions. Her productions were always contentious, which she didn’t mind because it kept her in the limelight and resulted in sold-out audiences.

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Diamond Lil, a 1928 drama, portrayed a racy Victorian-era woman who was described as an “insouciant, tough-talking, wasp-waisted, and balloon-bosomed 1895 Bowery saloon hostess and singer,” by Emily Leider in her book Becoming Mae West. The play was a hit on Broadway, cementing Mae‘s sultry image.

Hollywood and Family Troubles Is Not a Good Match

Mae was involved in a court case about her play, Pleasure Man. She also lost her mother around that period and after the case was dismissed. Despite the fact that the court case was dismissed, she decided to halt production after the loss of her mother.

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She was worn out with court issues and was also broke. Mae had spent 30 years in show business but still hadn’t gotten the wealth she desired. And then it suddenly happened, when Diamond Lil became the subject of glowing newspaper reviews, and the show became a bona fide sensation.

A Much-under-30 Appearance

Mae West’s success on the stage as a writer, producer, director, and actor made it inevitable that she would make the leap to the big screen. The only surprise is that when she eventually got her Hollywood break, she was nearly 40 years old, had a stomach, and was penniless.

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Night After Night (1932), her first picture, starred her former lover George Raft, who recommended her for the part. The actress wasn’t thrilled to be cast in the minor role, but she warmed up after she was allowed to write her own script, and Hollywood screens got a taste of her sexiness.

Finding a New Path

West began screenwriting after years of creating theater plays. Did you know, though, that she went on to write or co-write nine of her own movies? That’s not all! She was a multi-talented woman who also sang and composed music, receiving credits on the soundtracks of 17 films.

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She adapted Diamond Lil for the cinema, and the film shattered box-office records, grossing a staggering $2 million and saving the studio from bankruptcy during the Great Depression. Throughout, Mae continued to fight racism by insisting on being cast with African American actors.

Having a Good Time

Mae noticed an actor on set and declared, “If he can talk, I’ll take him.” Cary Grant was that actor, and he was in the middle of filming Blonde Venus (1932), directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Marlene Dietrich. Despite this, Mae was adamant that she’s taking Grant! He co-starred with her in many films.

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Mae’s choices in pets were exotic and unusual. She had a chimpanzee named Coffee and a pet monkey named Tricky, too. Mae West’s one and only TV credit is for the legendary early 1960s talking horse series Mister Ed. From monkeying around to horsing around. You have it now!

An Era of Intense Censorship

Hollywood is divided into two periods in terms of censorship: pre-Code and post-Code. The censorship crackdown was partly sparked by Mae West’s bold escapades, so she obviously contributed. Although censorship restrictions for motion pictures were implemented in 1930, it wasn’t followed until 1934.

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The halcyon days of Hollywood were pre-Code, but after its introduction, censorship was taken much more seriously, which meant Mae West’s scripts were challenged at every turn. To get back at the authorities, she’d purposely write content that she knew censors would freak out about.

A Queen from Back in the Days

Her 1934 film, Belle of the Nineties, was made at a period when studios reluctantly featured Black musicians who composed and performed the music in the films. Despite this, Mae insisted that Duke Ellington be featured on TV. Louis Armstrong also appeared in her 1937 film, Every Day’s a Holiday.

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It Ain’t No Sin was supposed to be the title of the Belle of the Nineties movie. The studio had taught 40 parrots to repeat “It ain’t no sin” as a promotional ploy, before the original title was criticized by censors, though not like she cared. She didn’t realize it at the time, but censorship was about to affect her career in Hollywood.

Flirting, Fame, and Fortune

Mae West was the highest-paid actress in Hollywood by 1935. Only media magnate William Randolph Hearst earned more that year. The Samson and Delilah spoof Goin’ to Town (1935) and the comedy Klondike Annie and Go West, Young Man were next on her list (both 1936).

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She was famous and well-paid, but with her trademark humor and risqué double-entendre, she was never far from trouble. On a radio show, she flirted with the dummy of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen in 1937. Nobody knows why a ventriloquist was on the air!

Becoming a National Pride

My Little Chickadee (1940) was another box office hit, but it also included a lot of personal and visible conflict. West’s racy one-liners caused the picture to be significantly censored, and she had a tumultuous relationship with her co-star and co-writer, actor and comic W.C. Fields.

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Mae West, despite her outspoken and contentious reputation, was not a party girl who smoked or drank. She was all about living healthy. Surprisingly, enemas were one of her oddest hobbies. Every morning, she would get an enema, stating that it benefited her physical health.

Wearing a Life Jacket

Mae West was well-known for more than only her acting and attitude. Her big bust was also well-known! Her large chest encouraged soldiers to name their life jackets “Mae Wests,” named after her because they protected them from sinking during World War II. This nickname is still used in the military today.

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Many of West’s outfits were designed by fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. A creative personality, Schiaparelli released “Shocking,” a perfume, in 1937, and it came in bottles shaped like West’s body. West’s hourglass figure is said to have inspired a casual name for the iconic Coca-Cola bottle, which has been dubbed “Mae West” bottles.

The Heat Has Been Turned Up!

The Heat Is On was West’s next film (1943). She grudgingly showed up after her friend, the director Gregory Ratoff, feared that without her support he would go bankrupt. Her Hollywood career, however, would be doomed as a result of the film. Her sexual burlesque was outlawed by the post-Code censors.

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The film would have suffered greatly without her risqué remarks and low-cut attire. The Heat Is On debuted to critical acclaim but was still a lackluster box office success. The failure of the film had such a catastrophic effect on Mae that she decided to leave Hollywood.

A Life Outside of Hollywood

Mae West was revitalized after returning to the stage, where she belonged, and without the constraints of censorship. On Broadway, she played Catherine the Great of Russia, flanked by an “imperial guard” of tall, muscular young performers in Catherine Was Great (1944). Mae herself was great, already known as an icon.

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She turned down numerous major roles, including Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950), while still smarting from the censorship scandal surrounding The Heat’s On and the limits placed on her characterizations. She also rejected many roles that turned out to bring box office success.

The 1950s Were a Time of Change

True, she wasn’t in Hollywood, but she was the star of her own show at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. She hung around with gangsters and hefty, well-built men. At the age of 61, she began a romance with Paul Novak. Despite their 30-year age difference, the relationship was one that lasted until her death.

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She and Rock Hudson performed “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” at the 1958 Academy Awards, and she followed up with a successful autobiography, Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It, the following year. However, the book recorded no setbacks or failures in her career and this drew attention.

The 1960s Brought Another Wave of Change

The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. The album cover features a wide range of outstanding personalities, including Jesus, Muhammad Ali, Gandhi, and Mae West. Mae appeared on the cover, but only after receiving a personal letter from the Beatles, who said they were big fans. She was initially reluctant.

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If you’re wondering why Mae West first declined to be on the legendary Sgt. Pepper’s album cover, she had a great Mae West response: “What would I be doing in a lonely hearts club?” she wondered. Mae never changed. She was in for all the excitement.

What’s In for the ‘70’s

Mae returned to the spotlight after 27 years, in the film adaption of Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge (1970). Despite having a star-studded ensemble that included West, John Huston, Raquel Welch, Farrah Fawcett, and Tom Selleck in his first picture, the film was a sad flop.

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However, because it’s Mae West she tried again with the farcical musical comedy Sextette (1978). Sadly, in addition to diabetes and cataracts, West, who was 84 at the time, had significant hearing loss and was required to wear an earpiece to hear her lines, and this movie did badly as well.

A Life Well Lived?

Mae West collapsed in the morning of August 1980. She was rushed to the hospital and tests confirmed she had suffered a stroke. In November 1980, she passed away at the age of 87. George Raft, her co-star in her first and last feature films, died two days later.

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Mae West’s legacy is undeniable. Would we have had Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Brigitte Bardot, or Madonna if she hadn’t existed? She was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 1999, her story returned to Broadway with the play Dirty Blonde, highlighting the experience of two devoted fans who form a close relationship while acting out essential chapters from Mae West’s life.