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She Always Knew How: Mae West, A Personal Biography Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 10, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chandler (Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford) draws on her interviews with the 86-year-old Mae West, known for her "risqué brand of humor," in this chatty memoir. West carefully constructed and guarded the image of her personality as a woman who enjoyed sex at a time when "skirts had to cover ankles." She contended she was "never vulgar. The word for me was suggestive." West (1893–1980) craved the spotlight from a young age and had been a success in vaudeville, where she began to write her own material. Her screen legend perfected her sexually playful alter ego in such films as She Done Him Wrong, which contained her most quoted line: "Come up and see me sometime." Chandler also includes West's first-person account of her 10 days in jail, when she was found guilty of producing an immoral Broadway show, her first full-length play, Sex. West remained a box-office draw into her 70s, appearing in the 1970 film Myra Breckinridge. Whether discussing her love life or advising on playwriting or beauty tips, Mae West was always entertaining. Photos. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Chandler’s biographies of film notables include leading ladies Ingrid Bergman, Joan Crawford, and Bette Davis, and she continues with star/diva/legend Mae West, whose candid statements provide a solidly three-dimensional look at an iconic actress. More than a movie star, witty writer, comedienne, and astute businesswoman, West changed public consciousness with humor: What I’m proudest of is that I offered entertainment, not a message. But there was a message, too, only it was subliminal, hidden behind the wisecrack. Women told me that I inspired them to stand up and walk on their own two feet. At 86, West was reluctant to give interviews, but could not refuse longtime friend and favorite director George Cukor, who arranged the meeting. The result is conversation laced with revelation from the woman who’d been performing since her star-struck debut at Brooklyn’s Royal Theatre amateur show, when the clothes-conscious little girl stamped her foot, demanded her spotlight, and won first prize: $10 and a gold medal. The story of Diamond Lil should see demand from film buffs and mainstream fans alike. --Whitney Scott

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408430975
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408430972
  • ASIN: B002PJ4GZE
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Desjardins on February 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the opening pages of Charlotte Chandler's new biography of Mae West, She Always Knew How, the author inadvertently tips off readers that they may be getting diluted goods. In regards to granting Ms Chandler's interview request West is quoted, "I'm saturated, I'm not promoting anything or selling anything, so I don't have any reason."

When excerpts of the interview were originally published in the February 1984 issue of MS magazine, the short article's snappy editing made for fascinating reading. Presented in this expanded form, the conversation seems to drag (no pun intended). That Chandler in fact conducted this interview is not in question. She has authored many acclaimed biographies of cinematic luminaries, but it's the exceedingly talkative nature of the material presented here that raises the question of what West actually said, and what Chandler interpreted as what she said, interwoven with comments made about West by other subjects the author interviewed over the years. Arranging this data into coherency may account for the large amount of elapsed time since the interview and the publication of this biography, some thirty years later. While it is improbable that Chandler has attempted to pull the wool over the eyes of readers, it appears West succeeded in pulling the wool over her eyes.

The fact that Chandler does not state a time frame, or how long a duration of time she interviewed West is troubling. Born Lyn Erhard, no personal facts about Chandler are available, and she appears to be somewhat of an enigma. Perhaps this is why she can relate to a personage such as West who had no problem rearranging the facts of her life to suit herself, or the listener at the time.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By S. Vonteese on February 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is nothing like other books written on Mae West (and I have read every single one, including West's own biography). How is it different? All previous books on Mae West had been written after extensive research. This one is written (more like transcribed) in complete blind faith, with no research for possible untruths, wrong facts or embellishments.

The book is 95% a transcription of Mae West's last interview. She was 86 at the time-and well known for boastful embellishing of her history. MANY of the famous and elderly do this. They change the facts at whim, make up new ones, leave out unpleasant ones etc. This whole book consists of that. In no way, shape or form, can anyone identify with Mae West as a human being upon reading this. If we are to go along with the book's contents, then we must believe that Mae West never had a single failure in her life, NEVER HAD TO DIET, never had a moment's insecurity or negative thought in her entire life.

Speaking to the infamous Tim Malachosky, does not help matters when it comes to facts. Malachosky, who met West well into his late 20's in 1973 via sitting for days-on-end in the lobby of the Ravenswood (not in 1969 as a "teenager" after West allegedly called HIM) sounds like Max from 'Sunset Boulevard' throughout. I know this because I lived at the Ravenswood from 1971 to 1977 and dated the desk clerk who finally asked Miss West if Malachosky could visit for a short while. She had a very close friend, a young latin fellow named Robert whom was her right hand man, besides Paul Novak. When West passed on, only a hired nurse and Paul Novak were present. None of these facts were researched to any degree for this book.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Damon Devine on March 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, this book does not grab the reader, at any point. It is an 86 year old Mae West talking about anything and everything, yet saying nothing profound. It is breezy afternoon banter and minor recollections. And this is coming from a HUGE Mae West fan! I can safely say I have read every single book on Mae West, I even have her likeness tattooed on both arms! So you can take my word for it, when I say this book is almost unreadable.

For one--Charlotte Chandler did no reseach what-so-ever. There are endless factual errors, both in what Mae West says throughout and what others said in regards to her, but Chandler questions nothing. She just goes with the flow--so this becomes somewhat of a FICTIONAL book. You don't know, unless you have seriously studied Mae West, what is true and what is extreme "grande embellishment" (i.e. false recollection).

Tim Malachosky, despite popular belief, was not Mae West's "personal secretary for 10 years" and I have in my possesion a SIGNED letter by him acknowledging this. It was considerably less time, not to mention West had several guys tend to her mail, set up folding chairs for her guests, etc. The letter goes on to reveal that Malachosky was selling copies of West's 'Mae West on Sex, Health and ESP' book mere WEEKS after her death in 1980, at $10 a pop. And if we choose to believe all that he states in this latest book, combined with Chandler's slant--then Mae West was a normal elderly lady, innocent, pure, extremely ladylike and may well have had butter-scotch candies at the bottom of her purse, to hand out to crying babies! NOTHING could be further from the truth, and Chandler would have discovered this, had she talked to those much closer to Mae West (several of whom are still alive and only in their 50's and 60's).
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