MAE WEST: A Biography by Fergus Cashin

MAE WEST: A Biography

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Compared to this slipshod little book, the somewhat dubious big Mae West bio by Fells & Musgrove (below) looks like the zenith of serious scholarship. Cashin, an English show-biz journalist, is out to debunk the West ""legend"": he sees her as a ""psychopathic egomaniac"" full of ""inhibitions and hangups""; he implies that she lived a virtually sexless life; he takes the old Mae West rumors--that she was a transvestite or hermaphrodite--seriously; he suggests that Mafia connections may have been responsible for her success. Impossible ideas? No. But Cashin backs none of them up with research; in fact, he's done so little research that he blithely recycles the ""legend"" stuff he's supposed to be debunking. (E.g., Mae's story that 1920s newspapers wouldn't print the play title Sex in ads--disproved by Fells & Musgrove, naively repeated by Cashin.) And he hinges much of his book on the idea that the dying West ""sent"" for a Catholic priest--which isn't the way Eells & Musgrove tell it. As for the rest, it's a tacky patchwork, largely derived from Mae's own suspect memoir and glued together with Cashin's clichÉ prose (""She loved the smell of the greasepaint""). Especially weak: the section on West's life after 1943--almost 40 years in less than 40 pages. In short, then, whether you're a fan or not: don't come up and see this some time.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1982
Publisher: Arlington House