Mae West, wise-cracking vaudeville performer, was one of the most controversial figures of her era. Rarely, however, do people think of Mae West as a writer. In Three Plays By Mae West, Lillian Schlissel brings this underexplored part of West's career to the fore by offering for the first time in book form, three of the plays West wrote in the 1920sSex (1926), The Drag (1927) and Pleasure Man (1928). With an insightful introduction by Schlissel, this book offers a unique look into to the life and early career of this legendary stage and screen actress.
West was a one-person entertainment business who left her mark on American culture. To get work, she "wrote" several plays, never pretending to be a creative artist but adapting her material freely from successful plays and films. Her plays attracted a huge, wealthy audience while offending official New York sensibilities. This collection not only contains the texts of her three best-known plays-one straight and two gay-but also documents her legal battle on morality charges. The plays are mostly unedited, without the stage directions needed to show us how to read the lines. Unfortunately, what makes these plays funny is the disparity between an innocent line and the sexually charged "business" around it, business that the reader needs to see clearly to be amused. Recommended for special collections only.-Thomas E. Luddy, Salem State College Lib., Mass.