Mae West Sentenced

Having produced, directed and starred in a lascivious play, West was charged with ‘corrupting the morals of youth’ on 19 April 1927.

Lobby card for the American film I

Before hitting the Hollywood big time, Mae West began writing plays in the 1920s under the pen name ‘Jane Mast’. Her works dealt with themes that were avant-garde for the time, such as sex and gay rights.

Her first starring role in one of her own Broadway productions came in 1926 when she appeared in Sex, a play that she also wrote, produced and directed. The plot revolved around a prostitute, Margy, her love for an English naval officer and client, Gregg, and a somewhat convoluted affair involving an American millionaire. It caused a sensation. Conservative critics deplored the show, giving almost universally negative notices; indeed the New York Times called it a ‘crude and inept play, cheaply produced and poorly acted’. The public flocked to it.

The city was also unhappy with the danger to moral standards and, in February 1927, raided the theatre. They had not acted quickly enough; 375 performances had already taken place and 325,000 people had seen the show, including many of the city fathers.

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