20th Century Fox
Michael Sarne
Robert Fryer
Mike Sarne, David Giler
July 1970
95 minutes
Mae West, Raquel Welch,
John Huston, Rex Reed, Farah Fawcett, Roger Herren, Calvin Lockhart, John Carradine

Mae West made her return to the screen in "Myra Breckinridge" in 1970 at the age of 76 and after an absence of 27 years. This was a big news story in itself. But add to the mix that she would play opposite Raquel Welch, a much photographed glamour-puss of the day, in the film of Gore Vidal's subversive, gender bending, best selling novel that was all but universally deemed to be unfilmable, and the end result was a press feeding frenzy that kept the picture on the front pages of the tabloids throughout filming and beyond.
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Mae was in huge demand for interviews and granted many, all carefully stage-managed, in the familiar surroundings of her white and gilt, be-mirrored, drawing room at the Ravenswood. These interviews generated a huge amount of personal publicity and interest in her return. Such was the interest that she even made the cover of heavy-weight publications such as the UK’s “Sunday Times Magazine"
Mae plays Leticia Van Allen, a talent agent and recording star who entertains her wannabe leading men, including a young and very handsome Tom Selleck, in a huge circular bed in her office. Her part is secondary to the main plot but, undaunted by this, Mae asked for and got top billing and top salary, as well as script approval for her scenes and extra pay to rewrite any she didn't like.

All the months of hype for the film only added to the anticipation of actually seeing, on screen, Mae's triumphal return. And the anticipation continued in the cinema itself since Mae does not make her entrance until well into the film.
But what an entrance!
Mae's footsteps can almost be heard just before she turns the corner for her walk down.  And there she is. She looks magnificent as she struts her way down the line of men, eyeing up the talent and drawls her first line in the film “I'll be right with you, Boys - get your résumés out!”. She then turns to her secretary and says “Gotta big mob and I'm a little tired today, one of these guys will have to go”. Mae West was back!
From there on in, every time Mae is on screen she delivers one wisecrack after another in her own, much imitated but never bettered, style. Her biggest laugh of the film comes when she encounters a tall stud in cowboy attire waiting outside her office just as she's about to go home (to bed!). She asks him “Hi cowboy, how tall are you without your horse?”. He replies in what is surely the deepest voice in cinema history “Well, Mam, I'm six feet seven inches” to which Mae retorts, looking at him straight in the crotch before turning back towards her office/bedroom “Well, never mind the six feet, lets talk about the seven inches!”.
Edith Head was engaged to create Mae's wardrobe for the film. She rose to the challenge with a beautiful array of evening length coats and dresses, fabulously accessorised and topped off with ultra-extravagant head gear. She stuck mainly to a black and white (actually mostly off-white) theme for Mae's gowns. The exception was a sensational salmon pink number worn while Mae undulated her way through the song, “You Gotta Taste All the Fruit”.

As per her contractual entitlement, Mae built up her part substantially but in so doing she threw the plot off balance to such an extent that director, Mike Sarne, had to make a decision as to whether he was making a Mae West vehicle or the film of a best-selling novel. Unfortunately for her fans, he chose the latter course and although he let her film all her scenes, he cut many of them from the final film. Rumour has it that he may actually have destroyed them. Since they didn't turn up on the recent DVD issue of Myra it does rather look like these missing scenes have been lost to us.

The film premiered in New York at the Criterion Theatre on 23 June 1970. The huge amount of pre-publicity resulted in a record-breaking crowd of more than 10,000 fans, and almost all of them had turned out to see Mae West!  Mae was mobbed - and pictures of her gowned, bejewelled and bathed in the light from a myriad of flickering flashbulbs, were beamed across the world and made all the front pages the next day. Mae West was back - and looking like she'd never been away.

What is left of her work on
the film is quite simply stunning. She looks great and her delivery is completely on the ball. She is a real “knock out” in her production number singing the rock classic, “Hard to Handle”, and backed by a troop of handsome black dancers. She wears a stunning black evening gown with batwing sleeves trimmed in white fox fur with matching hat. Her jewellery sparkles as she weaves her magic and punches out this great song.

Mae was hugely disappointed with the film and, when asked what she thought of it, she snapped “There wasn't enough on me!”. Her fans certainly agreed with her and so did the box office. The film bombed upon its release. Mae's scenes were generally reviewed as being the film's highpoints and, such was her status, she managed to emerge from the film with her reputation unscathed.
At this time reviewers and interviewers commonly described Mae West as “age defying”, “timeless”, “indestructible” and other such references to her remarkable physical appearance and general longevity. Mae did and said nothing to disabuse commentators of this perception of her. In summary, she had become that rarest of human beings, a living legend. And Mae was quite simply delighted with that epithet.
Her arrival is announced by very up-beat music and the sight of Leticia’s fabulous vintage Rolls driving towards her talent agency. Cut to a glass doorway bearing the name of Leticia’s agency. Cut to her camp secretary leering at a line up of handsome would-be actors as he drools “Miss Van Allen is on her way up”. Cut to a long shot of the two lines of studs bordering the hallway to her office. The scene is set….