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She Always Knew How: A Personal Biography of Mae West
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She Always Knew How: A Personal Biography of Mae West

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  183 ratings  ·  33 reviews
In "She Always Knew How," her wonderful new biography of legendary actress Mae West, acclaimed biographer Charlotte Chandler draws on a series of interviews she conducted with the star just months before her death in 1980. From their first meeting, where West held out a diamond-covered hand in greeting and lamented her interviewer's lack of jewels, to their farewell, where ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 10th 2009 by Simon & Schuster (first published February 6th 2009)
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Richard Bennett
An interesting and funny book on the life of Mae West, a lady who knew how to control her career while other stars were being kicked around the movie lots. She had a Broadway career before starring in movies, and another Broadway career afterwards, so she was always busy and in demand, but what gets me is that she wrote her own lines, plays and books, and wanted full control of her characters in the movies. She didn't start appearing in the movie-flicks until she was around 40, but by then she w ...more
Michelle
Mae West and her one liners had me on the first page. She is so entertaining, vivid and funny. I have always loved her a little more than average, and this boom shows a glimpse into the real Mae, that I bet most fans didn't know. I sure didn't know most of this.

Only real complaint is the author. She offers very generic, bland descriptions that give zero insight into what it was like to be one of the only people in history to interview Mae West. I would have described every gesture, movement, pi
...more
Corrie Aglia
I loved it! I felt like I was having an intoxicating conversation with Mae West. A conversation littered with secrets of success and magic!
Edyta
The only conclusion I have after reading this is this: Mae West was delusional.
Yes, she was a star, and she was an icon, but she saw herself as this amazing demigod with no faults. She had the best mother, best voice, no stage fright, best figure, she was talented and could speak with ghosts. And every man she ever met fell hopelessly in love with her.
Wow. Just wow. Was there anything she couldn't do? I mean she did know she cannot i.e. fly, right? Because the way she spoke about herself... I
...more
Carol
I recommend this biography of Mae West because it describes her single-mindedness about her career and how that aided her success. She was the worshipped eldest daughter of a Brooklyn family, of German descent, who was stage-struck from early childhood. She bathed in the strong approval of her parents who supported her vaudeville career as a child singer and dancer. Her mother encouraged Mae's devotion to her self and to a career. There was a teen-age marriage, which didn't last because Mae put ...more
Colleen
One day, a young go-getting journalist named Charlotte Chandler managed to get in to see Mae West. Which was difficult since she was a woman, and Mae West didn't like being interviewed by women--even though a self described "feminist", West preferred being around men since it allowed her to be in her persona.

And this book is the result. It's not a biography. It's a 300 page interview. There is very little background information or putting things West says in perspective, and I'd be very curious
...more
Sean Wicks
Considering that Mae West was known as a sexpot, unafraid of her sexuality or sex, it is quite surprising that this bio of her paints a picture of a woman not surprisingly comfortable in her own skin and open in her love of men and sexuality, but also very generous and considerate with no real "controversy" in her career or personal life to speak of.

Most of the events come straight from the subject's own words as the author outlines how she met Miss West and was immediately told that it was rar
...more
Shirley
This book is part biography and part interviews of Mae West. The author organized the chapters chronologically starting with her parents' background and her childhood. About 95% of the chapters are long quotes by Mae West. Mae loves to talk about herself.

I have the impression that the author just let her talk and talk was what Mae did. Mae West talked about everything; her family background, how she got started in show business, people she worked with including how she go Carey Grant his first
...more
Jade Dermody
Knowing very little about the actress about from the witty one liners she was as famous for saying as her sexual attitude I decide to find out more and I wasn't disappointed. Written from some of the last interviews with the woman before she died and others who knew her, I was given an interesting insight into a part of Hollywood and America I had little knowledge of. My only critic of this bio however is that Miss West seems to have walked through the world in rose tinted glasses and by the end ...more
Clista
For such a character, I found the book a bit flat. Mae was a very focused and driven person who had her eyes set on becoming a performer from a very early age. She's actually a great exampler of Law of Attraction in motion, in that she dreamed it and then she accomplished it, never wavering in her belief that she would get there. She is completely, unapologetically self-obsorbed, yet also generous and loyal. Given the time that she lived in, she was also ahead of her time in wanting to be financ ...more
Rj
Look elsewhere if you are interested in a biography of West and her career. This book is more a vanity project by the author.
Amy
I enjoyed this book. It was decently written and I learned a lot about Mae that I didn't know - she started the careers of Clark Gable and other male stars, and many of the black female actresses of her time started out as her personal maid and she encouraged and aided them in getting careers. I didn't realize how she had written all of her vaudeville and Broadway productions as well as many of her movies. She really was a self-made woman which is impressive at any period, but especially in that ...more
Lloyd Fassett
Nov 15, 2014 Lloyd Fassett marked it as to-read
11/15/14 found it in the wall st journal Sat Review "5 Best on the joy of rebellion" by John Beckman
Kate Heath
A very insightful book into one of the people who personify Hollywood stardom. As the title says, Mae knew exactly what she wanted. From child performer on ameture nights to the mega star who kept a studio from going under, she turned out line after line to amuse and entertain.

You could define her in several words, one that does not come out usually is worker. Mae wrote, performed, and wrote again, constantly giving her stage audiences something new.
Marilyn D'Auria
My only disappointment with this book is that I suspect we got a very edited version of her story. I highly suspect that Ms. West's life was far more interesting than she admits. For all the risks she took to be a shocking commercial commodity, she tells a very modest, sanitized telling of her own life. Still, I would love to have met her. I think she led an extra ordinary life.
Dkeslin
Mar 25, 2009 Dkeslin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: movie buffs
A side of Mae West which will surprise. A shrewd business woman, a talented writer of her own material for stage and screen and a rather modest and isolated personality who built her image with double entendre and her own special suggestive delivery. A must read for film buffs who want to know what really went on in early Hollywood.
Mara Powell
Mae West was a wonderful woman. A true beautiful Leo woman! Very self-impressed, but also infinitely loving and generous to everyone around her. She had a beautifully blessed life, and she spread this beauty everywhere she went.

She is definitely someone to aspire to be like.
Erin
I didn't care for the book. The writing improves as it progresses, but I'm disgusted with Mae West. I understand that she was a big star for her time, however she had no humility whatsoever. The woman was completely egocentric. Arrogance is not appealing--at least not to me.
Jetreno
Bookclub selection--pretty shallow. But maybe that was the nature of the beast.
Lots of questions were not answered. I wouldn't spend a lot of time with this one
but is an interesting perspective on a woman from a completely different era.
Jennifer

Mae West did so much for female sexual empowerment, and she was also a wonderful, giving woman. There will never be another like her. Loved this book, Charlotte Chandler is a terrific biographer!
Lynn
Mae West was an amazing woman. This book was unique in that it felt like it was told by Mae herself! I have never known anyone like her, it was a joy to read and a fun glimpse into that world.
Erin
I devour movie star biographies (esp. from the 1930s, 40s or 50s) and this was a light, fun one.....What swagger West had, literally.....wish I had a little of her moxie....
Pam
Fascinating look at Mae West life, basically in her own words. I liked reading about what care she took in phrasing what she said on stage to add layers of suggestive meaning.
Shaynipper
Mae West seems to have been quite the invented person Didn't find the book as interesting as I hoped. Took long time to finish.
Liz
I enjoyed an inside look at a Hollywood icon. Well written, in-depth with out boring you with every insignificant detail.
Heather
3 stars for the actual writing and composition of the book. 5 stars for the absolute fabulousness that is Mae West.
Robbie
I reviewed this book in a printed article in the Washington Blade's Feb 13, 2009 issue. check out my thoughts there!
Sjfstudio
A feisty and completely orignal gal. Old timer telling it like it was. Enjoyable.
Vikki
Biography of Mae West. Very Good book. She lived from 1893 - 1980.
Monica
It appears Mae West was everything I expected her to be.
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