Mae West Biography

Controversial and sensual are probably two words that spring to mind when talking about Mae West. The daughter of a prizefighter and fashion model, Mae was determined not to be shy about herself and constantly battled with censors in the USA throughout her career as playwright, actress and screenwriter. She was well known for her double entendres and sexy quotes such as 'When I'm good I'm very good, but when I'm bad I'm better'.

She started entertaining at the age of seven, and turned professional at 14 when she performed for the Hal Clarendon Stock Company in 1907. From there she appeared on Broadway shows including Vera Violetta along with Al Jolson.


Mae West then turned her hand to writing for her first Broadway show, provocatively entitled Sex, in which she also played starring role as well as produced and directed. Soon after Mae was prosecuted on 'moral charges' and spent eight days of a ten day sentence on Welfare Island. Not dismayed by the jail-time, her next play dealt with homosexuality and was called The Drag. The show never opened on Broadway due to a threatened ban by the Society for the Prevention of Vice. She continued to write plays which generally played to full auditoriums.


In 1932, Mae West secured a contract with Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, her first appearance was in Night After Night, in which she uttered the famous reply to 'Goodness, what beautiful diamonds.', 'Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.' She continued making movies for 11 years, including I'm No Angel and the Academy Award-winning She Done Him Wrong, both with Cary Grant. Whilst making films, she also appeared on radio causing the usual controversy, with NBC receiving letters calling the show 'immoral' and 'obscene'.

After her stint on the big screen and radio, she returned to Broadway in 1943 and appeared in her spoof Catherine was Great. She also appeared in a lavish stage show in Las Vegas surrounded by bodybuilders. In 1959, her biography Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It was released and became a bestseller.

From the 1950s onwards, Mae West was unable to re-create the glory of her early years and although she still made movies, released albums and appeared on television, she never quite held the spotlight again as she had done throughout the first half of the century. She passed away on November 22nd 1980 at the age of 87 after she fell ill after a second stroke earlier in September. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Mae West Quotes

It's not the men in your life that count, it's the life in your men.

Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution.