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

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  320 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Actress, playwright, screenwriter, and iconic sex symbol Mae West (1893-1980) created a scandal and a sensation on Broadway with her play Sex in 1926. Convicted of obscenity, she was sentenced to ten days in prison. She went to jail a convict but emerged a star. Later, in Hollywood, she was the number one box-office attraction during the 1930s and saved Paramount Studios f ...more
Paperback, 317 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Applause Theatre & Cinema Book Publishers (first published February 6th 2009)
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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 relationshi
Richard Bennett
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Valerie Vlasenko
I got interest in this book and Mae West personality itself from the person whose opinion I value but in short, it was a disappointment. Although the author’s done a tremendous job interviewing a fair amount of people I can’t say I learnt much from it. I guess I set up my expectations rather high from the book titled “She always knew how” anticipating winning life philosophy and empowerment for women but all I got was a story of a woman full of vanity and self-indulgence. Don’t waste your time o ...more
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The vast majority of the book seems dictated by West herself. It's derived in large part from extended interviews with West, and insofar as it presents West in her own voice, it's a delight. But it feels incomplete as an objective biography and I was left wanting to know more; both about her and about Paul Novak, the man who was her husband in everything but the legal sense, and who seems to have taken nothing from the estate when she died. ...more
I had no idea what a raunchy person West was! The author based her writing on multiple personal interviews. She clearly communicates West 's perspectives, and the language is clean, except for the fact that her entire life's focus is on sex and expanding the acceptability of sex in entertainment. ...more
Corrie Ventura
Jun 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I loved it! I felt like I was having an intoxicating conversation with Mae West. A conversation littered with secrets of success and magic!
Well Read Southerner Blog
I recently watched a 1940 gem of a movie from Netflix DVD starring Mae West and W. C. Fields called My Little Chickadee. Shockingly, I had never seen either one of them in a movie even though I’m such a fan of old Hollywood.

Per Wikipedia: “West reportedly wrote the original screenplay, with Fields contributing one extended scene set in a bar. Universal decided to give the stars equal screenplay credit, perhaps to avoid the appearance of favoritism, but the move incensed West, who declined to tea
Tyler Zamora
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bold. Brassy. Brave. Mae West is a fascinating icon whose life is worth reading about. While I’ll admit this book did a lot of boosting of Mae’s ego, there were also glimmers of truth and honesty throughout. Mae was the first to admit that her favorite topic was herself. She wasted no time in announcing her pleasure with going to jail and spending time locked up for a scandalous play in which she performed in and wrote! This incident even made her career skyrocket. She was truly a trailblazer in ...more
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wouldn't dare give Ms West anything else than a highest rate possible. I loved how she described herself, her life and work which was her life and the love of her life. She is a proof that women CAN.
I would appreciate more pictures of Mae, as I'm sure she had lots of them. But her words described her perfectly.
Bert Z
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WOW!! What a woman. Just an incredible human being on the inside as well as on the outside. One of the most enduring of the classic film icons, her legacy is everlasting. Charlotte Chandler is the perfect writer for these old Hollywood bios, I’ve read her Joan Crawford one also, and she shows great respect for her subjects whilst also not being bias. I loved it. Truly, Mae West was one of a kind.
Marnie Zorn
"I made up my mind very early that I would never love another person as much as I loved myself".. Despite coming across as self-centered it seems she also had a genuine and generous side.. ...more
Joey Sharpe
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book , mostly narrated by Mae herself. Surprising and sweet.
Kelly Parmelee
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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! ...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
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Marilyn D'Auria
Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Jan 27, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 10, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Mara Powell
Apr 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
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