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New York World-Telegram and the Sun via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
New York World-Telegram and the Sun via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The Lifelong Censorship of Mae West

New York World-Telegram and the Sun via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
New York World-Telegram and the Sun via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

"I believe in censorship. After all, I made a fortune out of it."

The name Mae West immediately calls to mind a witty sex symbol with an endless supply of bon mots, but she was much more than that. West was funny, smart, and driven to succeed. She was a champion of women’s sexual expression, and she spent her life testing the limits of what could be acceptable in entertainment.

Mary Jane West began a career in Vaudeville in 1907 at the age of 14. She worked in any kind of production she could find, and even wrote her own plays. Her first starring role on Broadway was at age 33 in a 1926 production called Sex, which West wrote under the name Jane Mast. The show ran for more than 300 performances before police raided a performance in February 1927 and arrested the cast on charges of obscenity. West garnered salacious headlines from the seven-day trial and was sentenced to 10 days incarceration, during which she dined with the warden and his wife while serving just eight days (she was released early on good behavior, although you can guess what West herself would say about that).

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West gained more in acclaim than she lost from the incident, and the other play she had in the works kept the conversations about sex and sexuality in the limelight. The Drag dealt with homosexuality, and though West didn't write herself a role, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice launched a campaign against the play based on an out-of-town preview. Their protest was taken seriously, and The Drag never opened in New York. A look back at the play shows that it was hardly prurient, but it did have liberal overtones and included a debate on the nature of homosexuality between a sympathetic doctor and a judgmental judge.

The experience of having her shows shut down based on their content steeled West for a lifetime of fighting censorship. West’s subsequent plays (and later movies) walked a fine line in order to draw publicity and ticket sales without being closed down.

Mae West landed her first Hollywood film in 1932, when she was almost 39 years old. That was considered over the hill even in the early days of Hollywood, but West was already famous, and she kept her age to herself for as long as possible. When she was given a small role in Night After Night, she rewrote her lines and blew audiences away. There would be no more small roles after that. In fact, West was soon writing her own films for Paramount Pictures. Four popular movies later and the Hays Code, Hollywood’s self-censoring rules which had existed for a few years, was finally starting to be enforced in Hollywood. Although there had previously been no penalties for breaking the code, suddenly theater owners were organized enough to refuse booking any movie that did. The fine line that West’s screenplays walked grew thinner. She still filled her screenplays with double entendres, but they were more obtuse—designed to be understood only by those who looked for them.

In March 1936, a congressional hearing was called to discuss “compulsory block booking” and “blind selling” in the motion picture industry. Opinions were offered as to the deleterious effects of motion pictures on youth. Many film titles were discussed, but Mae West’s name came to be the shorthand for referring to sexy films. It very clear that “Mae West films” were more in demand than the more wholesome fare, but the writing was on the wall: if Hollywood didn’t clean up its act, the government would get involved sooner or later.

Paramount Pictures

West’s answer to the Hays Code was the 1936 movie Klondike Annie. West played Rose, a kept woman who commits murder to escape, and meets a Salvation Army missionary, Sister Annie Alden, as she sails to Alaska. When Alden dies, Rose takes her identity and continues to Alaska, where she cleans up the town, fills the church, and falls in love. The themes of religion and hypocrisy were a change for West, but the movie was still subject to censorship and eight minutes were cut. William Randolph Hearst, the only person in the country making as much money as West, was so incensed at a Mae West movie about religion that he forbade his newspapers to ever mention her name or her movies again. Klondike Annie was a hit anyway, but Paramount had decided she was more trouble than she was worth at that point. Scripts that followed the Hays Code weren’t nearly as funny as West’s earlier movies.

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Radio was a battleground for West, too. In 1937, she appeared on The Chase and Sanborn Hour in a farcical play as Eve in the Garden of Eden, along with Don Ameche playing Adam, and in a later skit, with a ventriloquist dummy named Charlie McCarthy. The script played up West’s sexy demeanor, including her interactions with McCarthy, who was supposed to be an adolescent. The broadcast, unsurprisingly, brought complaints to the FCC from the Legion of Decency and other religious groups. The FCC launched an investigation and NBC blamed West, claiming that her tone of voice made the innocent script sound more bawdy and suggestive than intended. West was banned from the network, while the other (male) participants suffered no sanctions.

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By 1938, when The Hollywood Reporter published an ad from the Independent Theatre Owners Association labeling her “box office poison,” West got caught up in a campaign to rid Hollywood of its most expensive stars along with Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Katharine Hepburn. But as someone who had spent her entire life testing boundaries, she wasn't about to stop because her studio wanted to dump her. West went on to make a few more movies for other studios, most notably My Little Chickadee with W.C. Fields in 1940. She returned to the Broadway stage, and in the 1950s, she took her innuendo-laden act to Las Vegas. West continued acting in TV and various motion pictures until her death in 1980, at age 87, when The New York Times called her "the epitome of playfully vulgar sex." Mae West had spent her entire life pushing the limits, even as they were pushing back.

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15 Surprising Facts About David Tennant
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Jeff Spicer, Getty Images

Though he’s most often linked to his role as the Tenth Doctor on the legendary sci-fi series Doctor Who, David Tennant is much more than that, as audiences around the world are beginning to discover. Born David John McDonald in West Lothian, Scotland on April 18, 1971, the man who would become David Tennant has spent the past 30-plus years carving out a very particular niche for himself—both on the stage and screen in England and, increasingly more, as a staple of the big screen in Hollywood. To celebrate the award-winning actor’s birthday, here are 15 things you might not know about David Tennant.

1. HE TOOK HIS NAME FROM THE PET SHOP BOYS.

As a teenager, the budding actor learned that because there was already a David McDonald in the actors’ union, he needed to come up with an alternate moniker to pursue a professional acting career. Right around the same time, he read an interview in Smash Hits with Neil Tennant, lead vocalist for the Pet Shop Boys, and "David Tennant" was born.

Today, he legally is David Tennant. “I am now actually Tennant—have been for a few years,” he said in 2013. “It was an issue with the Screen Actors' Guild in the U.S., who wouldn't let me keep my stage name unless it was my legal name. Faced with the prospect of working under two different names on either side of the globe, I had to take the plunge and rename myself! So although I always liked the name, I'm now more intimately associated with it than I had ever imagined. Thank you, Neil Tennant.”

2. HE BECAME AN ACTOR WITH THE SPECIFIC GOAL OF STARRING ON DOCTOR WHO.

While a lot of young kids dream of growing up to become astronauts or professional athletes, Tennant set his own career goal at the tender age of three: to star on Doctor Who. It was Tom Baker’s version of The Doctor in particular that inspired Tennant to become an actor. He carried around a Doctor Who doll and wrote Who-inspired essays at school. "Doctor Who was a massive influence," Tennant told Rolling Stone. "I think it was for everyone in my generation; growing up, it was just part of the cultural furniture in Britain in the '70s and '80s.”

On April 16, 2004, just two days before his 34th birthday, Tennant achieved that goal when he was officially named The Tenth Doctor, taking over for Christopher Eccleston. “I am delighted, excited, and honored to be the Tenth Doctor,” Tennant said at the time. “I grew up loving Doctor Who and it has been a lifelong dream to get my very own TARDIS.” 

3. THOUGH BECOMING THE DOCTOR WAS A LIFELONG DREAM, THERE WAS SOME TREPIDATION.

Though landing the lead in Doctor Who was a lifelong dream come true for Tennant, the initial excitement was followed by a little trepidation. When asked by The Scotsman whether he worried about being typecast, Tennant admitted: “I did remember being thrilled to bits when I got asked and then a few days later thinking, ‘Oh, is this a terrible idea?’ … But that didn't last very long. Time will tell. The only option is you don't take these jobs when they come up. You've got to just roll with the punches.”

4. HE MADE HIS PROFESSIONAL DEBUT IN A PSA.

While most actors have some early roles they’d prefer to forget, Tennant’s first professional gig didn’t come in some otherwise forgettable movie, TV series, or play. When he was 16 years old, he booked a role in an anti-smoking PSA for the Glasgow Health Board, which played on television and was shown in schools. Thanks to the power of the internet, you can watch his performance above. 

5. HE MARRIED THE FIFTH DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER, WHO ONCE PLAYED THE TENTH DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER.

Confused? In 2011, Tennant married Georgia Moffett, who played his artificially created daughter, Jenny, in the 2008 Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Daughter.” In real life, Moffett really is The Doctor’s daughter; her father is Peter Davison, who played the Fifth Doctor from 1981 to 1984.

6. HIS FIRST MOVIE ROLE HAD HIM ACTING OPPOSITE CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON.

In 1996, Tennant landed his first movie role in Michael Winterbottom’s Jude, where he played the very descriptive “Drunk Undergraduate.” His big scene had him acting opposite Christopher Eccleston—the man who, less than a decade later, would hand over the keys to the TARDIS to Tennant.

7. HE AVOIDS READING REVIEWS OF HIS WORK.

While it’s hard to imagine that Tennant has ever had to deal with too many scathing reviews, it doesn’t really matter to the actor: good or bad, he avoids reading them. When asked during a livechat with The Guardian about one particularly negative review, and whether he reads and reacts to them, Tennant replied: “The bad review to which you refer was actually for a German expressionist piece about the Round Table called Merlin. It was the first extensive review I'd ever had, and it was absolutely appalling. Not that it's scarred into my memory in any way whatsoever. I try not to read them, these days. Reviews aren't really for the people who are performing, and—good or bad—they don't help. You always get a sense if something you're in has been well received or not, that's unavoidable. But beyond that, details are best avoided.”

8. HE HOSTED MASTERPIECE THEATRE.

In 2007, Masterpiece Theatre reinvented itself. In addition to dropping the “Theatre” from its title, the series announced that it was splintering into three different seasons—Masterpiece Classic, Masterpiece Mystery!, and Masterpiece Contemporary. Unlike the days of the past, when Alistair Cooke held court, each of the new series had its own host, Tennant among them. (He was in charge of Masterpiece Contemporary.)

9. HE GOT A LOT OF YOUNGER AUDIENCES INTERESTED IN SHAKESPEARE.

Tennant has logged a lot of hours with the Royal Shakespeare Company over the years. In 2008, while still starring in Doctor Who, he took on the role that every actor wants in the RSC’s production of Hamlet, which ended up being one of London’s hottest (and hardest to get) tickets. The Guardian reported that hundreds of people were lined up to buy tickets, with some even camping out overnight outside the West End theater. Within three hours of the tickets going on sale, all 6000 of them were sold out.

Hamlet is a very popular play,” a RSC spokesperson said at the time. “It's the most famous. But obviously there's the factor that David Tennant is in it and the good news is that he's bringing a lot of younger audiences to Shakespeare."

10. HE WAS ON A ROYAL MAIL STAMP.

In 2011, the Royal Mail paid tribute to Royal Shakespeare Company’s 50th anniversary with a series of stamps featuring images from a handful of the RSC’s productions, including Tennant as Hamlet.

11. HE ALMOST PLAYED HANNIBAL LECTER.

Though it’s easy to see why Bryan Fuller cast Mads Mikkelsen in the title role of his television adaptation of Hannibal, Tennant came pretty close to playing the fava bean-and-chianti-loving, flesh-eating serial killer at the heart of Thomas Harris’s novels. Fuller was so impressed with Tennant’s dark side that he tried to make a guest appearance happen during the series’ run.

“I’m a huge fan of David Tennant, and we’ve been trying to get him on the show for quite some time,” Fuller said. “He’s such a spectacular actor. He brings such an effervescence to every performance. I would love to have David on the show. Or just write for David! I would kill and eat somebody to work with David! He’s my favorite Doctor.”

12. HE’S JODIE WHITTAKER’S FAVORITE DOCTOR.

David Tennant stars in 'Doctor Who'
Adrian Rogers, BBC

Fuller isn’t the only one who puts Tennant at the top of their Favorite Doctor list. Jodie Whittaker, who recently made her debut as the Thirteenth Doctor—and is the first woman to take on the role—recently told The Sunday Times that “David [is my favorite Doctor] of course, because I know him.” (The two spent three seasons co-starring in the British crime drama Broadchurch.)

When asked about Whittaker’s casting at the New Orleans Wizard World Comic Con, and whether he had given her any words of advice, Tennant said that, “We had a wee chat, yes. It is quite a unique job, because it's a show that has so much history to it. And it has a reach that's quite unlike other things. It's a bit of a kind of cultural thing—Who's going to be the Doctor?—it's a news story, really. So to find yourself in the middle of that is a bit overwhelming. I think inevitably, you sort of look to people who'd been there before to go, 'What is this like? What is this madness I entered into?' And that's certainly been the case with Matt and Peter, and now with Jodie. I know that Jodie's talked to Peter, and she's talked to Matt. You just for a little support group. You go, 'What is this madness? Tell me about it.' And of course, you know, she 's a little trepidatious, but she's basically really excited. She's such a fantastic choice for it. You see it in just those 30 seconds that she did at the end of the last episode. You just go, 'Oh my god, she's all over it. Brilliant. It's great.’”

13. HE’S DYING TO WORK WITH AARON SORKIN.

When asked by Collider if there’s ever been a television show he’s watched and wished he was a part of, Tennant copped to being a huge fan of The West Wing.

The West Wing is finished now [but] that’s the one that I would have loved to have been part of," he said. "I’d love to work with Aaron Sorkin on something. Just the way he writes, he has no fear in writing people that are fiercely intelligent, and I love that. I love the speed of his stuff, and the way people free-associate and interact. That kind of writing is very exciting. It’s hard to have that kind of clarity of voice, especially in a world where there’s a million executives listening to everything you do and having an opinion and trying to drive everything towards the lowest common denominator because that’s what happens when things are made by committee. So, to have someone who’s got a strong individual voice that is allowed to be heard is quite increasingly rare. These people need to be cherished.”

14. HE HAS EARNED A LOT OF FAN ACCOLADES, INCLUDING “COOLEST MAN ON TV.”

David Tennant in 'Jessica Jones'
Linda Kallerus, Netflix

In addition to his many professional acting accolades—including a couple of BAFTAs and a Daytime Emmy and an Olivier Award nomination—Tennant has earned a number of less official “awards” over the years. In 2007, a Radio Times survey named him the Coolest Man on TV. The National Television Awards named him Most Popular Actor of 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2010. In 2008, he was one of Cosmopolitan’s Sexiest Men in the World. In 2012, British GQ readers named him the third Best Dressed Man (behind Tom Hiddleston and Robert Pattinson).

15. YOU CAN BUY HIS PANTS.

On April 17, 2018, as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Stitch in Time fundraiser, the organization began auctioning off more than 50 original costumes worn during RSC performances. Among the items that you can bid on? The black trousers Tennant wore in Hamlet, and the white robe he wore in Richard II.

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12 Fascinating Facts About Rick Moranis
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George De Sota, Getty Images

Beloved for his film roles in the 1980s and 1990s, Rick Moranis played perfect iterations of an endearing geek in Ghostbusters (1984), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Spaceballs (1987), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), and The Flintstones (1994), amongst others. But in 1997, to the consternation of his many fans, he walked away from it all to focus on raising his family. Although Moranis has been mostly out of the limelight since then, he's kept busy with music and voice work, and he hasn't ruled out the option of appearing on screen again (fingers crossed).

In honor of his 65th birthday, here are some things you might not know about Rick Moranis.

1. HE GOT HIS BIG BREAK THANKS TO A CANADIAN TELEVISION CONTENT REGULATION.

After working at a Toronto radio station after high school, Moranis appeared on a sketch comedy show on the CBC called Second City TV. The show, which was in its third season when Moranis joined in 1980, legally had to devote a few minutes of airtime in each episode to “identifiable Canadian content.” In other words, Canadian television had to contain some Canada-related content, which Moranis found silly.

After the crew went home, Moranis and fellow actor Dave Thomas satirized the requirement by improvising the characters of Bob and Doug McKenzie, two stereotypically Canadian brothers. The sketch filled the extra airtime with Canadian content, and audiences loved Bob and Doug. Moranis and Thomas portrayed the McKenzie brothers in the 1983 film Strange Brew (which they also wrote and directed), and their comedy album The Great White North got a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album in 1983.

2. HE COUNTS FILMING LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS AS ONE OF HIS LUCKIEST MOMENTS.

In 1986, Moranis starred as florist Seymour Krelborn in the film adaptation of the musical Little Shop of Horrors. As he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015: "I'm the luckiest guy to get that … It was timing, and I fit the right type. It was an amazing experience. One of the greatest moments of my life was shooting that thing."

3. HE STARRED IN A PEPSI COMMERCIAL.

In 1995, Moranis starred in a funny Pepsi commercial, playing twins separated at birth—one twin is in America, while the other grows up in Germany. One sunny day, the twins telepathically connect via the power of drinking Pepsi.

4. HE LEFT HOLLYWOOD TO BECOME A STAY-AT-HOME DAD.

In 1991, Moranis's wife died of breast cancer, and he had to reshuffle his priorities in order to take care of his two young children. In a 2005 interview with USA Today, he explained that he stopped making movies in 1996 because he couldn't juggle being a stay-at-home dad and traveling to make movies. "I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn't miss it," Moranis said.

5. HE HAS DONE VOICE WORK ON A FEW ANIMATED MOVIES.

Although Moranis shifted his focus from movies to raising kids, he never completely retired. In 2001, he did voice work as both the Toy Taker and Mr. Cuddles the Teddy Bear in the animated film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & the Island of Misfit Toys. In 2003, he voiced Rutt in the animated film Brother Bear, and reprised the role for its 2006 sequel, Brother Bear 2.

6. HE'S A GRAMMY-NOMINATED MUSICIAN.

In 2005, Moranis let the world know about his love of country music. The Agoraphobic Cowboy is a comedy album comprised of 13 songs inspired by alternative country and bluegrass. Although Moranis admitted that the album began as a lark, it was nominated for a Grammy in 2006 for Best Comedy Album. "I started writing a song," Moranis told Billboard. "I wrote one, and then another one. I was singing them to a couple of friends, and they'd be relatively amused."

7. HIS JEWISH UPBRINGING INSPIRED HIS MOST RECENT ALBUM.

In 2013, Moranis released another musical comedy album called My Mother's Brisket & Other Love Songs. Thematically, Moranis focused on his Jewish upbringing, and he used a mix of klezmer and jazz sounds on songs like "The Seven Days of Shiva" and "Live Blogging The Himel Family Bris." The best part? The deluxe pack of the album comes with a purple yarmulke.

8. HE'S STILL GOT TONS OF FANS.

Moranis lives in Manhattan and often gets recognized on the street. As he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, "People are very nice when they see me." Moranis attributes some of his enduring influence to his clean style of comedy. "We were governed by a certain kind of taste at that time, and there were places we wouldn't go with language and bodily fluids and functions. I think that's what [fans are] nostalgic for."

9. HE NEVER SOUGHT FAME FOR ITS OWN SAKE.

Moranis says he never decided to be an actor for the fame. Rather, he focused on the art itself, and fame and publicity followed. “The need to do publicity and everything other than the work is not something that I set out to do," Moranis told Heeb in 2013. "For some people it is. They want that. They want the connection to the audience. They want their name in the paper. For me, that was just a by-product of the work's success. I didn't really seek out any of that stuff." He also didn't seek out celebrity friends; he told the magazine that he hasn't kept up with any of his co-stars in more than 20 years.

10. HE AVOIDS AIRPLANES BUT ISN'T AFRAID OF FLYING.

In an interview in 2013, Moranis revealed that he avoids airplanes in favor of driving, but not because he's afraid of flying. Moranis dislikes the dragged out process of flying, from getting to the airport a couple hours early to dealing with sick seatmates. “We started to hear the stories of people stuck on the tarmac for six hours," he said. "If that happens to me, I'll be on the front page of the New York Post the next day. I'll fake a heart attack or melt down. So it’s better for me to stay away from airports."

11. HE DECLINED A ROLE IN THE GHOSTBUSTERS REBOOT.

Although original Ghostbusters stars Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver all appeared in Paul Feig's Ghostbusters reboot, Moranis wasn't among them. As he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, he was offered a cameo role but declined: “I wish them well. I hope it's terrific. But it just makes no sense to me. Why would I do just one day of shooting on something I did 30 years ago?”

12. HE'LL BE BACK ONSCREEN AS SOON AS HE FINDS AN INTERESTING ROLE.

Although Moranis's acting hiatus has lasted more than 20 years, he may act again. His two kids are in their twenties now, and he says he'll act again once he finds an interesting role. “I still get the occasional query about a film or television role, and as soon as one comes along that piques my interest, I'll probably do it,” Moranis said last year. "I'm happy with the things I said yes to, and I'm very happy with the many things I've said no to. Yes, I am picky, and I'll continue to be picky. Picky has worked for me."

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