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She Always Knew How: Mae West, a Personal…
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She Always Knew How: Mae West, a Personal Biography

by Charlotte Chandler

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I so wanted to read this.book. Mae West quotations abound and I'd become intrigued by her.
At first, how she describes herself can seem inspirational, always look groomed, never under sell yourself.
But the bottom line is ...it was just so cold . No emotion to hook yourself on. Just a litany of if I still weren't intrigued by her shallow answers to questions by a lady with an inflated ego. I don't think this of her though....it's just not the right book for me about her. ( )
  RuthieD | May 19, 2014 |
Chandler's biography on Mae West consists of interviews with West near the end of the life. However, there are no references to the date the interview took place nor the dates that Chandler interviewed others who comment on their work with West. West comes across as completely in love with herself. The book gives a good look at West's career - in West's own words. Of the three books I have read on West, this was the best but I feel there could be a better study of West done. ( )
  knahs | Jun 2, 2013 |
A very interesting biography of Mae West written by an author who interviewed West extensively near the end of her life. Mae West was a feminist before the word was invented, and a very racy character, who created herself an image based on sex that she always upheld in public. The book covers Mae's entire life from her parents up to and including her death in 1980. Mae lived through most of the 20th century and is a legend today for her risque work both on the stage and as a playwright and her movies that pushed the boundaries of 1930s/40s morals. Mae had a way of saying the tamest thing in such a sexy way it became a double entendre.

While a biography, the book is almost completely written in Mae's own words quoted extensively from interviews with the author and also from a few of her contemporaries such as George Cukor. The author interjects with her own narrative briefly here and there to make a cohesive narrative. I found the book extremely interesting. I love this time period of Hollywood. Though I must say Ms. West does come across as egocentric and narcissistic which surprised me not really knowing anything about the woman herself. One thing I very much enjoyed was every time a play or movie was mentioned the author included a brief synopsis of the plot and since many of these, especially the plays, were unknown to me it was very interesting indeed. I wonder if a book of Mae West's plays has ever been published... I'd certainly like to read them.

The author has written plenty of other biographies on actors/directors of the golden age of Hollywood and I will look out for them in the future. While I always prefer to read auto-biographies, what I look for biographies is an author who respects the subject and doesn't dish dirt nor come up with all sorts of wild (unprovable) theories. Charlotte Chandler has most certainly lived up to my expectations of a good biographer. ( )
  ElizaJane | Mar 15, 2009 |
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Biographer Charlotte Chandler draws on a series of interviews she conducted with the star just months before her death in 1980, as well as interviews with people who worked or lived with her. Actress, playwright, screenwriter, and iconic sex symbol Mae West created a scandal--and a sensation--on Broadway with her play Sex in 1926. Sentenced to ten days in prison for obscenity, she went in a convict and emerged a star. Her next play, Diamond Lil, was a smash, and she would play variations on Diamond Lil for virtually her entire career. In 1930s Hollywood she saved Paramount Studios from bankruptcy. Her screenplays included some notorious one-liners that have become part of Hollywood lore, but behind the clever quips was Mae's deep desire to see women treated equally with men. She fought the double standard of the time that permitted men things that women would be ruined for doing.--From publisher description.… (more)

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