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6 Degrees Entertainment

'American Masters: Mae West - Dirty Blonde'
(Mae West / DVD / PG / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: Mae West achieved great acclaim in every entertainment medium that existed during her lifetime, spanning eight decades of the 20th century.

A full-time actress at seven, a vaudevillian at 14, a dancing sensation at 25, a Broadway playwright at 33, a silver screen ingénue at 40, a Vegas nightclub act at 62, a recording artist at 73, a camp icon at 85 - West left no format unconquered.

'American Masters: Mae West - Dirty Blonde' is the first major documentary film to explore West's life and career, as she "climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong" to become a writer, performer and subversive agitator for social change.

DVD Verdict: As I'm sure all us of a certain age already know, Mae West was possessed with creative and economic powers unheard of for a female entertainer in the 1930s - and still rare today.

Though she was a comedian, West grappled with some of the more complex social issues of the 20th century, including race and class tensions, and imbued even her most salacious plotlines with commentary about gender conformity, societal restrictions and what she perceived as moral hypocrisy.

'American Masters: Mae West - Dirty Blonde' takes us through her life, whilst never shying away from the fact that she was also one of the most controversial movie stars of her day.

Born Mary Jane West on August 17th, 1892, in Brooklyn, New York, to Matilda and John West, family members called her Mae (spelled May at the time) from an early age.

Matilda, also known as "Tillie," was a German immigrant and aspiring actress, but her parents' disapproval in career choices brought her dreams down to a more realistic profession as a garment worker.

However, she clandestinely abandoned her seamstress work for the less respectable, though somewhat more glamorous work, as a fashion model and never totally gave up the prospect of having some career in show business.

Over the years, West encountered many problems, especially censorship. She once quipped, "I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it," and she bucked the system by making comedy out of conventional mores; and the Depression-era audience admired her for it.

When her film career ended, she wrote books and plays, and continued to perform in Las Vegas and the United Kingdom, on radio and television, and even recorded rock 'n roll albums!

Indeed, and rightly so, in 1999, the American Film Institute posthumously voted West the 15th greatest female screen legend of classic American cinema.

For more on the Hollywood star, please purchase the brand new 'American Masters: Mae West - Dirty Blonde' DVD today from PBS. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official PBS DVD Purchase Link