Mary Jane “Mae” West (Born August 17, 1893 – Died November 22, 1980) was an American actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol whose entertainment career spanned seven decades.
Known for her lighthearted bawdy double entendres, and breezy sexual independence, West made a name for herself in vaudeville and on the stage in New York City before moving to Hollywood to become a comedian, actress, and writer in the motion picture industry, as well as appearing on radio and television.
For her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute named West 15th among the greatest female stars of classic American cinema.
Mae West, started her performing career at age 5.
Obviously meant for entertainment, West also wrote the play, Sex, for which she was jailed.
The arrest and jail time only gave her more good publicity which helped propel her to stardom, eventually being ranked the 15th biggest female star of all time.
Known for her hourglass figure and sultry ways, she played the role of sexy vamp and was one of the first “blonde bombshells.”
Her top heavy figure was behind World War II sailors and airmen naming their life saving floatation vests “Mae Wests.”
With the tremendous increase in parachuting due to World War II the parachute malfunction where lines cross over the top of the parachute making it look like a giant bra was also called a “Mae West.”
Starting her movie career at the cracked age of 39, West helped launch the career of Cary Grant as her leading man. The plays she wrote and movies she starred in dealt with sex, homosexuality, religion and hypocrisy, all of which made censors crazy!
West was not only brash and outspoken on the screen, but was also an advocate of women’s rights and homosexual rights long before the mainstream.
Mae West (born Mary West) was the subject of Salvador Dali’s famous Mae West Lips Sofa in 1938, appeared on the cover for the Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper album, and is depicted in a statue located at the end of the Hollywood Walk of Fame (along with Anna May Wong, Dorothy Dandridge, and Dolores del Rio).
Of course, she also has a star on the Walk of Fame.