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March 2, 2021

Stunning Portraits of Mae West, Hollywood's Sex Symbol in the 1930s

Mae West (born Mary Jane West) was an American stage and film actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, and a sex symbol whose breezy sultriness, languid postures, blasé, racy double entendres, and a husky contralto voice became her trademarks. West’s entertainment career spanned seven decades, even though it was met with several obstacles, especially censorship, as she was one of the most controversial film stars of her day. “I believe in censorship,” quipped West. “I made a fortune out of it.”

After the success of her 1928 play, Hollywood came knocking on West’s door. She was offered a contract by Paramount Pictures in 1932, albeit being close to 40, an exceptionally late age to begin a movie career. West made an enormous hit with her second feature film She Done Him Wrong in 1933, an adaptation from her successful Broadway play Diamond Lil. Not only was it a considerable box office hit that saved Paramount from bankruptcy, the movie also earned an Academy Awards nomination for Best Picture and boosted Cary Grant’s acting career.

West’s most successful movie of her entire film career came with the next release, I’m No Angel (1933). Following the release of this film, she became a hugely hot issue and one of the largest box office draws in the United States. By 1935, West was the highest paid woman and the second-highest paid person in the country. It was around this time that the censorship of the movie Production Code started to be meticulously compulsory, which resulted in West’s scripts being heavily edited. Several of her films after the Production Code Administration’s establishment, including Belle of the Nineties (1934), Klondike Annie (1936), Go West, Young Man (1936), Every Day’s a Holiday (1937), all performed below expectations at the box office.

Take a look at the sultry actress through 30 stunning portraits below: 


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