Talking About Mae West
by Frances Boots
On Friday, March 7, 3-4:30pm, Artvoice theater editor (and Buffalo State assistant dean of Arts and Humanities) Anthony Chase will lecture on “Mae West, Comedy, and the Disenfranchised Woman Playwright” in Ketchum Hall, Room 320 on the Buffalo State campus.
By the time Mae West starred in her first Hollywood film in 1933, she was 40 years old and had already enjoyed a successful stage career, twice achieving the highest advance box office sales in the history of the American theater. She wrote all her own scripts, and when her play Diamond Lil was filmed as She Done Him Wrong, not only was it nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture, it saved the Paramount Studio from bankruptcy. Within a year, West was the second highest paid individual in the United States. West’s comic style and sexually charged persona proved to be a lightning rod for Hollywood censorship, however. Frustrated, she elected not to renew her studio contract. She starred in just nine films of the era. While West is one of the most influential female playwrights of all time and an American icon, her work would become neither part of the repertoire nor the curriculum; her major work was never published during her lifetime, and her major play has never been published at all.
Chase will explore the complicated legacy of Mae West. The event is part of the college’s “Conversations In and Out of the Disciplines” series, founded by SUNY Distinguished Professor Ann C. Colley, in the fall of 2008, to draw attention to research being done across departments. These free lectures are open to the general public. A reception will follow.
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