“Goodness Had Nothing to do with It"
Director: Mike Nichols
Screenplay: James Mangold
Cinematography: Tobias A. Schliessler
Art Direction: Thomas Voth
Costume Design: Milena Canoneros
Renee Zellweger as Mae West
Hugh Jackman as Frank Wallace
David Strathairn as David Auburn
Ben Affleck as George Raft
Aaron Eckhart as Cary Grant
John C. Reilly as W.C. Fields
Sacha Baron Cohen as Don Ameche
Sienna Miller as Raquel Welch
Ewan MacGregor as Rex Reed
Jack Black as Dom Delouise
Viggo Mortensen as Dick Cavett
Tammy Blanchard as Judy Garland
Tagline: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”
QUOTE: Hat Check Girl: “Goodness, what lovely diamonds!”
Mae West: “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.”
Synopsis: We begin in the year 1913 at a photo shoot of the 20-year-old Mae West (Renee Zellweger), posing for the song-sheet for the tune “Everybody Shimmies Now,” scantily clad in sequins and fringe. This begins Mae West’s road toward notoriety and infamy. West begins writing risqué plays under the pen name Jane Mast, and finds her first big success with Sex, which she also directs and stars in. Many of her next plays were plagued with controversy and many are shut down. West is married to Frank Wallace (Hugh Jackman), a vaudeville dancer and loyal husband, despite her attitude that he is quite disposable.
In 1932, at age 29, West receives a motion picture contract from David Auburn (David Strathairn), a top executive at Paramount, moves to Hollywood (leaving her husband) and begins filming Night After Night with George Raft (Ben Affleck). Next, she brings her hit play Diamond Lil to the screen, now titled She Done Him Wrong. She casts Cary Grant (Aaron Eckhart) in the leading male role. Their partnership is successful, and She Done Him Wrong goes on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. West and Grant pair up again for I’m No Angel, another box office smash, which saves Paramount from bankruptcy. West becomes the largest box office draw in the USA. However, in 1934 the Production Code strictly enforces their censorship, and West’s brash and frankly sexual scripts began to be heavily edited. West does five more films with Paramount before ending their partnership.
In 1937, West appears on a radio show with comedian Don Ameche (Sacha Baron Cohen), where they perform a sketch of Adam & Eve in The Garden of Eden. The sketch is considered so blasphemous and risqué that West is banned completely from NBC.
West accepts a co-starring role with W.C. Fields (John C. Reilly) in My Little Chickadee in 1940. The two are not used to co-starring on a film and do not get along at all. West would not put up with his drinking. The rivalry gets so out of hand that eventually the two can’t work on set together – their scenes are filmed separately and spliced together. Nevertheless, the film is a financial success. In 1942, after Frank Wallace had been trying to get in touch and reconcile with Mae, West files for divorce from Frank Wallace, after denying that she even HAD a husband. She claims to never have known him.
In 1944, West returns to Broadway as Catherine the Great of Russia in Catherine was Great, a spoof comedy. West then stars in her own long-running Las Vegas act. We catch a glimpse of her act on an evening that Judy Garland (Tammy Blanchard) is the guest star. West slowly disappears from the entertainment world for a time.
In 1970, she appears in Gore Vidal’s film Myra Breckenridge, also starring Raquel Welch (Sienna Miller) and Rex Reed (Ewan MacGregor). It is a huge flop. In 1976, she gives an exclusive interview on the Dick Cavett Show (Viggo Mortensen as Dick Cavett), speaking about her life and career, along with insights into her proclivity toward vulgar humor and her battle with censorship. She makes her final screen appearance at age 85 in SEXTETTE with Dom Delouise (Jack Black), another critical and commercial flop. However, After Dark magazine awards her the Star of the World Award for her performance.
In the last years of her life, West maintains a youthful appearance and surrounds herself with young men, employing chauffeurs, companions and bodyguards. In the late summer of 1980, West suffers a stroke and falls out of bed. She recovers, but suffers another stroke in November. She is sent home in poor condition, and later dies at her apartment in Hollywood at age 87.
MAE WEST QUOTES:
“A hard man is good to find.”
“Between two evils, I always pick the one I’ve never tried before.”
“I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it.”
“I never loved another person the way I loved myself.”
What the press would say:
Renee Zellweger is amazing as the saucy, legendary Mae West, capturing her essence down to the arch of an eyebrow. She portrays the raw sexuality, double entendre, and strength Mae West was famous for. She ages as Ms. West from age 20 to age 87 flawlessly. This is one of the best biopic performances ever; and one that is likely to earn Ms. Zellweger Oscar #2.
The supporting roles are composed of the many men in her life. Aaron Eckhart shines as Cary Grant, capturing his debonair essence. John C. Reilly is fantastic as the egotistic, drunk W.C. Fields. His scenes steal the film. Hugh Jackman portrays Frank Wallace with sincerity and honesty. This man was emotionally abused by Mae West, and he always loved her. Jackman shows us all these complex emotions in his few scenes. Ben Affleck and Sacha Baron Cohen have memorable roles as one-time co-stars of Ms. West. Sienna Miller and Ewan MacGregor play Raquel Welch and Rex Reed on the set of Myra Breckenridge to perfection, and Jack Black is hilarious (yet heartbreaking) as Dom Delouise on the set of Sextette.
Viggo Mortensen and Tammy Blanchard have beautiful cameo roles as Dick Cavett and Judy Garland (Ms. Blanchard has already played the legend in Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadow, playing the young Judy). Each of the supporting characters each have interesting interactions with Mae West, and we clearly see how they affect each other. Mike Nichols’ direction carries us flawlessly and consistently through the life of Mae West with ease. He has an eye for exactly where the film needs to go, and executes it with beauty. The screenplay by James Mangold characterizes Ms. West perfectly.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Best Director: Mike Nichols
Best Original Screenplay: James Mangold
Best Actress: Renee Zellweger
Best Supporting Actor: Aaron Eckhart
Best Supporting Actor: John C. Reilly
Best Supporting Actress: Sienna Miller
And other various technical categories…