Movie Classics: Mae West’s Advice to Young Girls in Love

Movie Classic, the monthly Screen Magazine which reported on the lives of movie stars and kept us up-to-date on the latest gossip, is presented here in part, from August, 1933. Here are some snippits from the magazine; some articles, newsreel photos and a good selection of advertisments, giving us a nostalgic glimpse into some of the styles and tastes of Hollywood in the 1930’s.

If there is anyone who ought to be able to tell girls how to “get their men” it’s Mae. Men just naturally “go West.” They’d like to know her better. And how does she interest them – and hold their interest? She’s not afraid to tell you!

Mae West slouched down in a chair in her dressing room on the Paramount lot and told me how she gets her man – or men. She advised young girls how to do likewise. She told me how she gets her diamonds. She told me about her romances. She told me about The One Love of her life – the first and the last time she was ever really in love. And what it did to her.

Mae never sits upright unless aroused; she slouches. She was wearing a slinky black crepe dress, a short white fur coat with enormously puffed sleeves, a white hat on her blonde hair, a bit of white veil, and several “rocks” (diamonds, to you) the size of golf balls on fingers and bosom. She reminded me of a sleek cat – eyes half-closed, teeth slightly bared, indolent, insolent and liable to sudden fits of intense and ferocious life.

She is one hundred percent what she is. She does little or no acting on stage or screen. She is being herself. She couldn’t be anything else. She wouldn’t want to be. She loves herself.

She began to be cuh-razy about the boys when she was still in rompers in Brooklyn. The neighbors talked about her. Her father raised the roof about her. “But,” said Mae, “my mother understood me. She’d tell ’em, ‘Mae likes to play with boys better than with girls – what about it?’” That was enough for me. I used to hug ’em and kiss ’em. Those were the days when I thought a woman had to do the givin’, not the takin’. It ain’t that way now. I know different.

Be Crazy About Yourselves

“I get my man because I’m in love with myself. I’m crazy about myself. I’m more interested in myself and my own ambitions than I am in anyone else. That sets a high value on me, see? If I had to give advice to young girls on how to get their men, that’d be the first thing I’d tell ’em: “Be crazy about yourselves.” That’s one way.

“Another way is to make ‘em give till it hurts. Men have no use for a woman who doesn’t get things out of them. Not cheap things, either.

“Here’s how I started, though – by falling in love. I mean LOVE. And there’s only one love like that in any woman’s lifetime. I was crazy about that man. I was nuts about him. I was only about sixteen or seventeen – but, say, I was old for my age. Developed. Everything. It hit me hard. I was so jealous of him, I felt sore all over when I saw him look at another girl.

“My mother didn’t like him – not for me. And I thought a lot of my mother. I got to thinking about it, about him and me. And I says to myself, ‘If you keep on like this, there won’t be any Mae West.’ There wouldn’t have been, either. And I was in love with myself even then. I had lot of ambition. But if you think my ambition and my love for that man didn’t go into the arena and fight until they were bloody, you’re crazy.

“I knew I’d marry him if we kept on. I’d have a pack of kids. I don’t want any kids. I don’t now and I didn’t then. But I knew I’d get wrapped up in him and his ambitions and all that. I’d be lost in the shuffle. I thought, ‘Uh-uh! Not for me!’ I went to Chicago to get away from him and I stayed there for two years – two years that pretty nearly finished me.

“I lost weight. I had big circles under my eyes. I looked like the wrath of God. Night after night, I’d sit with my hand on the telephone, ready to call Long Distance, to give his number, just to hear his voice again. I fought the temptation every night of those two years and I’m telling you now, it nearly wrecked me. Every time I’d win and take my hand off the receiver, I’d be limp and done-in. I tried everything. I tried other men. I couldn’t even be nice to a man unless there was something about him like that other man – unless he had his ears or eyes, or walked like he walked, or was the type or something. I had to keep saying to myself, ‘Not for you, baby . . .’

Not Giving Her Heart Away

Well, I beat it. But I was really in love then for the first and last time in my life. It has never happened to me again. It never will happen to me again. I don’t know how I got to talking about it now. Now, I can take ’em or leave “em. I’m just like a man with my romances – here today and gone tomorrow.

“And I’ve had a lot of romances. I’m no angel.” (That, by the way, is the title of Mae’s new picture – “I’m No Angel.”) “But none of ’em ever really get me downright moody. Men are conveniences to me, nothing more. If they can help me in any way, socially or financially, I can lie nice to ’em . . .” (Can’t you just hear Mae West saying that?)

“I got my first diamond from that first man. He had two – a scarf-pin and a ring. One night he said he thought the stone in the scarf-pin would look swell on me. I asked him where he’d got it. He said a dame had given it to him. I burned up. I could’ve killed him for that. I acted insulted. I said, ‘D’ you think I’d wear a rock another dame has given you?’ Then I said, ‘But that ring – I might – take – that…’ I got the ring. He had it set up new for me. See, he thought I was doing him a favor by wearing that ring. He thought I was being nice to him because I’d take it, “I get my diamonds and my men by being mean to them. I act ill tempered. I won’t talk to ’em. I say I guess I don’t want to see ’em any more. I act so mean they have to do something to put me in a good humor – so they give me diamonds.

“There’s a lot of difference in the way you’ve got to treat men. It’s a game, and you’ve got to know the rules. Take me – if a man is conceited, if he’s like these movie actors who’ve had such a big fuss made over over them and think every woman is ready to fall for them, I’m mean to them. I pretend not to know they’re in the same room with me. I never even glance in their direction. I know ’em one day and the next day I don’t recognize ’em. I keep ’em like this – ” And Mae wiggle-waggled her capable, be-diamonded hand. “There’s an actor on this lot right now, who’s nuts about me, and has been for a long time. I’m nice to him one day and cold as Ice to him the next day.

He doesn’t know whether I’m comin” or goin’. No, I won’t tell you his name. That wouldn’t be fair.

“But if a man is very shy and self-conscious and timid, you’ve got to act different. When a man like that is around me, I always make a fuss over him. If he’s got some defect, for instance, or something he’s self-conscious about, I always make it a point to flatter him about that very thing. I make him feel so comfortable and so pleased with himself that I become the only apple in his eyes.

“Like a prize-fighter I know. He had a bum nose. He was ashamed of it. He talked about having it ironed out. I told him to do nothing of the kind. I told him it was his nose that gave him that virile look, that made him different from other men. He just couldn’t stay away from me after awhile. He couldn’t get along without me. He just had to be around me.

“Women have to be different to get – and keep – their men. They’ve got to think up tricks, something new all the time. They’ve got to dope out new moves in the old game. They’ve got to startle and surprise their men. I’ll illustrate what I mean:

“One time I wanted a certain producer in New York to put on an act for me, when I was doing vaudeville. He was a very important man and everyone was after him. I went to his office one day with another girl, who wanted him to put an act on for her. While she was talking her head off to him, I sat down in a chair, turned it around so my back was to him and – went to sleep. I hadn’t said a word to him – just ‘howjado’ when I first came in. When the other girl was ready to go, she had to wake me up and I just strolled out slow, like this, and drawled. ‘Er, goo-by.’ I’d just got back to my hotel when he telephoned me and asked me out to dinner.

“The end of that story is that he put an act on for me and he didn’t put the act on for the other girl. If I hadn’t gone to sleep he’d never have noticed me. But he was nuts about me and he did put on the act and I guess he must have spent over three thousand dollars for clothes alone. And most of them I bought were street clothes for personal wear. Only one or two dresses were really for the act. But by that time he was so nuts about me he didn’t know the difference. And I didn’t let it get serious either. When he’d start to make love to me, I’d start to shake all over and go for him and say, ‘Oh, quit it, can’t you – can’t you see I’m nervous, shaking all over like this? Wait, will you, this is business – wait till the act is on and my nerves calm down – ‘ And we parted good friends, at that.

She Says, “Look Feminine”

Then, if I were advising girls how to get their men, I’d tell ’em to put on a few pounds so they’d look like women and I’d tell ’em to dress just a little bit like Lou in “She Done Him Wrong.” I’d tell ’em to use some of her stuff. The way the girls of to-day dress is all wrong.

“It all came about after the World War. Food was scarce everywhere and women got thin and slatty, especially in Paris – and everyone knows that Paris sets the styles. It became the style. Then, these costume designers, these men dressmakers design masculine-looking things for women. The result is that they’ve made women look more like men than women. That’s no way. When a woman comes into a room where men are, they should know that WOMAN is there.

“When I was making ‘She Done Him Wrong’ and wearing all those corsets and trains and frills and everything, you should’ve seen how the ‘grips’ and ‘prop’ men treated me. They’d run around to get me a chair and help me to be seated. They had respect for me. They showed me courtesy. It’s like a woman stepping elegantly from a limousine, compared to a girl in slacks jumping out of a flivver. The woman from the limousine is given the best chair, and the girl is told to flop anywhere.

“I remember a woman who used to come to our house when I was a kid. My father wanted to know why we had her sitting around. She wore high collars ‘way up under her ears, you know the kind. And lots of jewels and laces. She had a swell figure and used a lot of perfume and she talked kinda slow and drawly with her eyes half-closed – I thought she was swell. She was mysterious. She made you wonder. She had glamour. She had sex. Everybody felt it. “You’ve got to make them want you first, of course, by being a woman and making them conscious of it. You’ve got to play a game, with a lot of new moves all the time. Then you’ve got to be mean to ’em so they’ll do anything to put you in a good humor again. That’s the way I work it. That’s the way I get my man – and my diamonds.”