PBS documentary on ‘30s Hollywood star Mae West to air: ‘She was a sexual gangster’

Mae West is returning to screens everywhere

The Hollywood icon is the subject of an upcoming PBS documentary titled “Mae West: Dirty Blonde,” which will shed life on her personal life and career, People magazine reported on Thursday.

The actress, who reigned as a sex symbol in Hollywood during the ‘30s and continued acting well into her 70s, passed away in 1980 at age 87.

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“Mae West crafted this image, she was a sexual gangster,” a voiceover can be heard in the trailer.

“Mae West was a pioneer for all those women who dare to be sexy: Cher, Madonna, Rihanna, Beyonce,” said fashion icon Andre Leon Talley.

West first made her mark at age 14 as a vaudeville dancer, the outlet shared. She would go on to star in films like “She Done Him Wrong,” “I’m No Angel,” “Sextette” and “My Little Chickadee.” She was considered one of the most controversial performers of her time and the highest-paid actress in America by the 1930s.

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Bette Midler served as executive producer in the documentary.

“I used to sing a Mae West song when I first started working solo,” the actress told People. “I actually did not know she was still alive; there was no iIternet… She sent me a cease-and-desist letter telling me to stop imitating her. Of course, I did, and I still have the letter!”

“But truly, there will never be anyone like her,” the 74-year-old continued. “Her diamonds and feathers, her strict adherence to the clothes of the 1890s… were all part of the package. How could you not love her? She believed in her creation, and she lived it every day of her life. Now, that’s commitment!”

Back in October 2019, West’s longtime assistant and secretary Tim Malachosky told Fox News that the star was always determined to remain glamorous for her fans until the end.

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American actress Mae West on the set of 'She Done Him Wrong,' directed by Lowell Sherman.

American actress Mae West on the set of ‘She Done Him Wrong,’ directed by Lowell Sherman.
(Photo by Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

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“Even when cameras weren’t rolling, Mae was always made up and glamorous,” he said at the time. “She was very old school and felt if you were a celebrity, you had to maintain that image for your fans. But her life at home was much quieter. We would sit and watch TV or she would read the paper. She spent her time visiting family, giving interviews or writing. She was always writing and staying busy. Working was her passion. She was actually in the process of writing a book when she passed away.”

“She was probably the first woman to go into movies when she was 30 and pretty much demanded what she wanted and got it,” he continued. “She wrote her own scripts, her own dialogue. She was the highest-paid woman in the United States in 1938. But the thing that really impressed me about her was her loyalty to her fans. She would go out of her way to sign autographs and meet everyone. She once told me, ‘If it weren’t for my fans, I wouldn’t be who I am today.’ She never forgot that.”

“Mae West: Dirty Blonde” airs Tuesday, June 16 at 8 p.m. EST on PBS.

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