Mae West was born August 17, 1893, in working-class Brooklyn, New York, the first child of a boxer and a corset model. Her mother, Matilda, exerted a profound influence on the child, instilling generous amounts of self-confidence and ambition and pushing her onto the vaudeville stage at age seven.

West quit school after the third grade and for the next two decades lived the rough-and-tumble life of a stage performer, appearing on Broadway and vaudeville and burlesque stages across the country. She finally gained national notoriety in 1928 for writing and staging her play "Sex" in New York, which led to her widely publicized trial on obscenity charges, culminating in one week of incarceration and a lifetime of fame.

After several more controversial plays, West was signed by Paramount Pictures in 1932, where her phenomenal success is credited with keeping the studio solvent. As the Hayes decency code was then in effect, West (who insisted on writing her own screenplays) was forced to couch her risque material in innuendoes and double entendres, which became a trademark of her comedic style; nevertheless, by the mid-1940s, West's films and popularity were so compromised after her bouts with censorship that she could no longer find work in Hollywood.

In the next decades, she returned to the stage, toured a wildly successful nightclub act, wrote a bestselling autobiography in 1954, and made appearances on records, radio and television, several of which were marked by the same controversies as in her early career. West returned after a 34-year absence to star in two motion pictures during the 1970s.

After a series of strokes, Mae West died in 1980, celebrated as a Hollywood legend.


Return to 611 Ravenswood--The Cybersuite of the Legendary Mae West.

Meet the Mae impersonator with the most pois'nality.

West's filmography.

West's inimitable quotations.

A discography.

A West bibliography and reviews.

Links to other great West and related sites.


Updated: March 6, 2002