Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “She Always Knew How: A Personal Biography of Mae West” as Want to Read:
She Always Knew How: A Personal Biography of Mae West
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

She Always Knew How: A Personal Biography of Mae West

3.64  ·  Rating Details ·  247 Ratings  ·  39 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about She Always Knew How, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about She Always Knew How

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
May 27, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it
She Always Knew How: A Personal Biography of Mae West by Charlotte Chandler is a 2009 Simon & Schuster publication.

I have always wanted to know more about Mae West but have never seemed able to find the time to watch any documentaries over her life or read a biography about her, but I came across this book and decided to make the time to read it.

This biography is organized the way I think a bio should be, in chronological order. There is a brief section on Mae’s childhood, her close relatio
Richard Bennett
Apr 20, 2015 Richard Bennett rated it really liked it
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
Corrie Ventura
Jun 19, 2010 Corrie Ventura rated it really liked it
I loved it! I felt like I was having an intoxicating conversation with Mae West. A conversation littered with secrets of success and magic!
Kelly Parmelee
Jan 09, 2017 Kelly Parmelee rated it really liked it
A wonderful biography of Mae West, the person. She truly paved the way through her plays, films and live performances for women to be able to enjoy sex on equal terms with men while making the situations humorous. Mae West, the person behind the character she created, was and continues to be an endlessly fascinating figure (pun intended). If you're a Mae West fan or if you're curious about her, this book is highly recommended!
Sean Wicks
Nov 05, 2013 Sean Wicks rated it liked it
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
Oct 24, 2011 Colleen rated it it was ok
Shelves: old-movies
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
May 11, 2009 Carol rated it really liked it
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
Larry Hostetler
Jul 02, 2016 Larry Hostetler rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Not only did it paint a good picture of the woman who said "goodness had nothing to do with it" but it also gave insight into much of 20th century acting, from vaudeville through Broadway and the movies into television.

Mae West is portrayed as the protector of an image, and one of the most famous images in entertainment history. "Diamond Lil" was her creation and her career, with a sexual insinuation unmatched. Her humor and pushing of boundaries
Jul 24, 2012 Shirley rated it liked it
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
Apr 10, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it
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
Jan 10, 2014 Edyta rated it really liked it
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
Apr 11, 2011 Clista rated it liked it
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
Jade Dermody
Sep 23, 2011 Jade Dermody rated it liked it
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
Nov 15, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
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
Kate Heath
Mar 22, 2010 Kate Heath rated it liked it
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
Dec 30, 2009 Marilyn D'Auria rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 25, 2009 Dkeslin rated it it was amazing
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.
What a fascinating woman. Tells a little about her childhood and her relationship with her Mother. Gives a synopsis on her plays and a little background on them.
She was a spunky woman with a lot of charisma and it comes through loud and clear in this book.
Jan 27, 2011 Jetreno rated it it was ok
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.
Mara Powell
Apr 08, 2013 Mara Powell rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 10, 2011 Erin rated it did not like it
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.
Mar 11, 2010 Marcie rated it really liked it
Worth its weight in gold for the quotes alone.
Mar 09, 2010 Vikki rated it really liked it
Biography of Mae West. Very Good book. She lived from 1893 - 1980.
Dec 05, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was amazing

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!
Feb 19, 2009 Robbie rated it it was amazing
I reviewed this book in a printed article in the Washington Blade's Feb 13, 2009 issue. check out my thoughts there!
Aug 18, 2009 Liz rated it liked it
I enjoyed an inside look at a Hollywood icon. Well written, in-depth with out boring you with every insignificant detail.
May 25, 2010 Lynn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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.
Jun 11, 2009 Sjfstudio rated it really liked it
A feisty and completely orignal gal. Old timer telling it like it was. Enjoyable.
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.
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Mae West: It Ain't No Sin
  • Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew
  • You Can Get There From Here
  • Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne
  • Thank Heaven: A Memoir
  • Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies
  • Laughs, Luck...and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time (with "I LOVE LUCY's Lost Scenes" and rare Lucille Ball audio)
  • Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood
  • Men are Stupid...and They Like Big Boobs: A Woman's Guide to Beauty Through Plastic Surgery
  • Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood
  • Judy
  • American Prince: A Memoir
  • The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda
  • Past Imperfect: An Autobiography
  • Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography
  • Cloris: My Autobiography
  • Sal Mineo: A Biography
  • Spencer Tracy

Share This Book