Carole Lombard is pictured on the Paramount lot in the mid-1930s...but had it not been for the actress below, the studio's fortunes -- and hers -- might have been considerably different.
Is it an overstatement to say Mae West saved Paramount? Perhaps, but it's no doubt that her films, released at the nadir of the Depression, infused the ailing studio with plenty of sorely-needed cash.
You'll note there's no photo of Lombard and West together -- that's because I'm not sure one exists. They almost certainly crossed paths at the studio, but Mae's productions were largely autonomous (she wrote her own material) and not something Carole would've been involved with. Moreover, West was some 15 years Lombard's senior, and as an emigre from New York viewed herself as an outsider. It should thus come as no surprise that the one Paramount actress Mae felt an affinity for was the similarly unconventional Marlene Dietrich:
West already had a controversial reputation long before heading to Hollywood. She wrote and/or starred in plays dealing with sexual topics that drew the wrath of 1920s censors, including "Sex" and "The Drag," a play about homosexuality that made the front of Hearst's New York Daily Mirror on Feb. 11, 1927. She even was briefly jailed.
Why are we discussing Mae? It's recently been announced that much of her personal memorabilia, from her Broadway and Hollywood days, will be auctioned this fall.
Julien's Auctions is overseeing the event, which will be publicly previewed Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 (the latter the date of the auction) at the Standard Oil Building in Beverly Hills, not far from the Ravenswood in Hancock Park, where she acquired an apartment (shown below in 1933) and lived there until her death in 1980. (While West invested wisely in southern California real estate, she never owned the Ravenswood, contrary to legend.)
These more than 237 lots of items are from the collection of Tim Malachosky, West's personal assistant and secretary for the last decade of her life.
The most expensive prop is the red satin gown West wore as Diamond Lil in the 1933 hit "She Done Him Wrong"; it's valued at $10,000 to $20,000. There's plenty of jewelry (Mae loved rhinestones), a gold tea set she was frequently pictured with and more.
Written memorabilia includes her annotated script from "She Done Him Wrong," for which bids are expected to open at $2,000-$3,000, as well as more than 250 fan letters.
The catalog isn't up yet, but you can learn more about it from http://www.juliensauctions.com/about-auction?id=300, with additional information available at https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/mae-west-assistant-brings-memorabilia-auction-november-1227577?fbclid=IwAR3MsDzYzY6Set_nh-2jYNBwPtfGCqseNVlL7J8o0do9W_S3yzFLTk9Ve60 and at http://www.playbill.com/article/gowns-and-costumes-belonging-to-1930s-star-mae-west-to-be-auctioned?fbclid=IwAR2x_3j6P-P2IKi_bxdSrnQgTKQB0I0Ohj2QPjPOnMl5EiKPvY9a_N37ygc.
This promises to be an auction of high interest, whose subject is a woman far ahead of her time. And while West may not have been close to Lombard, they shared affection for one man, New Yorker George Raft, who worked with Mae in her debut film "Night After Night" (1932) and remained friends for decades.