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Mae West : An Icon in Black and White - Jill Watts

Mae West

An Icon in Black and White

Paperback

Published: 1st May 2003
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"Why don't you come up and see me sometime?" Mae West invited and promptly captured the imagination of generations. Even today, years after her death, the actress and author is still regarded as the pop archetype of sexual wantonness and ribald humor. But who was this saucy starlet, a woman who was controversial enough to be jailed, pursued by film censors and banned from the airwaves for the revolutionary content of her work, and yet would ascend to the status of film legend?
Sifting through previously untapped sources, author Jill Watts unravels the enigmatic life of Mae West, tracing her early years spent in the Brooklyn subculture of boxers and underworld figures, and follows her journey through burlesque, vaudeville, Broadway and, finally, Hollywood, where she quickly became one of the big screen's most popular--and colorful--stars. Exploring West's penchant for contradiction and her carefully perpetuated paradoxes, Watts convincingly argues that Mae West borrowed heavily from African American culture, music, dance and humor, creating a subversive voice for herself by which she artfully challenged society and its assumptions regarding race, class and gender. Viewing West as a trickster, Watts demonstrates that by appropriating for her character the black tradition of double-speak and "signifying," West also may have hinted at her own African-American ancestry and the phenomenon of a black woman passing for white.
This absolutely fascinating study is the first comprehensive, interpretive account of Mae West's life and work. It reveals a beloved icon as a radically subversive artist consciously creating her own complex image.

"A provocative biography."--Edward Rothstein, The New York Times "An incisive and vivid portrait that focuses on the enormous influence African American music and culture had on West...Watts' spirited and intelligent analysis chronicles West's battles with censorship, celebrates her compassionate artistic vision and discipline, and unveils the enigmas and dualisms that pervade the forever iconic West's work and life."--Booklist "Watts is shrewd in her discussions of much of West's writing, and she performs a service drawing attention to West's debt to African-American culture."--Robert Gottlieb, The New York Observer "This book is engagingly written. Watts's research is prodigious and she writes with acuity and verve."--he Times of London "Watts' biography of Mae West delves deeply into the meaning of the star's essence. She presents an astonishingly complex portrait."--National Post "A provocative biography."--The New York Times "An incisive and vivid portrait that focuses on the enormous influence African American music and culture had on West...Watts' spirited and intelligent analysis chronicles West's battles with censorship, celebrates her compassionate artistic vision and discipline, and unveils the enigmas and dualisms that pervade the forever iconic West's work and life."--Booklist "Watts is shrewd in her discussions of much of West's writing, and she performs a service drawing attention to West's debt to African-American culture."--Robert Gottlieb, The New York Observer "This book is engagingly written. Watts's research is prodigious and she writes with acuity and verve."--he Times of London "Watts' biography of Mae West delves deeply into the meaning of the star's essence. She presents an astonishingly complex portrait."--National Post

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
They Were Too Smartp. 3
The Way She Does Itp. 27
Shimadonnap. 50
Speaking of the Influence of the Jookp. 70
You Can Be Hadp. 93
The Subject of the Dreamp. 118
Good Night to the Dichotomiesp. 143
If You Can't Go Straight, You've Got to Go Aroundp. 170
Naturally I Disagreep. 198
Bring Me Rabelaisp. 226
A Glittering Facsimilep. 254
I Had Them Allp. 282
I Wrote the Story Myselfp. 305
Really a Prologuep. 316
Sources
Archival Sources and Abbreviationsp. 319
Notesp. 321
Bibliographical Essayp. 357
Indexp. 363
Table of Contents provided by Rittenhouse. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195161120
ISBN-10: 0195161122
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 400
Published: 1st May 2003
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.01 x 15.22  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.56