Mae West was, without question, one of the most famous and controversial figures of her era. She was a tough-talking, wise-cracking vaudeville performer who made her way onto the Broadway stage and then into the hearts of the American public with a highly visible Hollywood film career. Rarely, however, do people think of Mae West as a writer even though she wrote eight scripts for the stage and her own dialogue for many of her films. 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 1920s--"Sex" (1926), "The Drag" (1927) and "Pleasure Man" (1928). Schlissel's introduction offers insight to the life and early career of this legendary stage and screen actress. In her first starring role on Broadway, West played Margy LaMont in "Sex, " which had 375 continuous performances but was closed by the police after more than a year, when she was tried and convicted of corrupting the morals of youth. Set in a Montreal brothel, the play confronts the issue of women separated by class and attitudes of sexuality. West's character learns the painful lesson that women are not bound in sisterhood simply because they have both shared the betrayal of men. In "The Drag, " which opened in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but not in New York, West argued that, like sexuality in a woman, homosexuality had no class identification. In this play West used the theatricality of the drag "queens" who had become her friends and "sisters." "Pleasure Man" is once again set in the world of theatre, and is both a forerunner to "La Cage aux Folles" and a revenge fantasy in which a man is castrated after seducing and impregnating an innocent girl. "Pleasure Man" had two and a half performances in the city before it was closed by the police. While West won the legal right to have her play performed, its controversial nature marked the end of her box office success.
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