[[caption-width-right:338:Sure TVTropesWillRuinYourLife, but give her a chance first.]]

-> ''"When I'm good, I'm good. When I'm bad, I'm better."''

Mae West (August 17th 1893 -- November 22nd 1980) was one of the most iconic and unlikely sex symbols of the early 20th century. Famous for her hourglass figure, sensual voice and cheeky DoubleEntendre she also became one of the most controversial film actors of all time.

Starting off -- like most stars in her time -- in vaudeville, she rapidly became notorious for her sexually risqué singing style. Her Broadway play, ''Sex'' (1927), caused so much scandal that the police arrested her and the entire cast. She barely spent a few days in jail while the press elevated her to national fame. Her next play, ''The Drag'' (1928) was never staged because the Society for the Prevention of Vice took offense of its homosexual themes.

By the time she became a movie star she was already 38 years old, but became an overnight success. Classic films like ''Night After Night'' (1932), ''Film/SheDoneHimWrong'' (1933), ''I'm No Angel'' (1933), ''Klondike Annie'' (1936) and ''My Little Chickadee'' (1940) featured West intimidating her co-actors with her witty and sexually risqué wisecracks and double entendres. She played the same part when appearing on radio shows. Creator/SalvadorDali designed a wood and satin sofa after her lips and during World War II Allied aircrew units called their life preserver jackets "Mae West", due to its resemblance to her bosom. Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaperelli formed the bottle for her perfume, "Shocking", after Mae's curvaceous dress form; a reference to her own reaction at seeing the form after it was delivered for custom dressmaking. She is even featured on the cover of Music/TheBeatles ''Music/SgtPeppersLonelyHeartsClubBand'' album.

Later in life Mae West tried her best to keep her status as former sex symbol, despite looking nothing like it anymore. She recorded a few rock 'n' roll albums and even appeared in a few {{Cult Classic}}s like ''Film/MyraBreckinridge'' (1970) and starred and wrote the very campy ''{{Film/Sextette}}'' (1978).

She was a talented writer, who wrote her own Broadway plays as well as the screenplays to most of her movies.

Not to be confused with Creator/DebiMaeWest.

* AuthorAppeal: Although she was only six years old when the decade ended, she seemed to have a thing for TheGayNineties. Four of her films take place then.
* AuthorsOfQuote: Many of which became synonymous with her personality.
* AnswersToTheNameOfGod: Classic variation from Mae West, in the movie ''Night After Night'':
-->"Goodness, what beautiful diamonds."
-->"Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie."
* BadassBoast: Most of what she said, including the quote on top of this page.
* CatchPhrase: "Why don't you come up some time and see me?", which is actually a MemeticMutation.
* CoolOldLady: Mae was already in her forties when her movie career took off. Even in old age she was still very sexually active and kept totally self-confident and witty about herself.
* DoubleEntendre: West was a master of giving seemingly innocuous phrases a suggestive spin, which allowed her to beat at least indecency charge. The lines themselves were not salacious, it was all in the delivery.
* DumbBlonde: Averted. She was quite witty and engaging.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: She made a career out of this (see her quote on "NoSuchThingAsBadPublicity") at a time when people thought the movies were too indecent and the stars were vice-ridden (not much has changed and it might be a shock to no one, but try to look at it through the POV of someone who lived during that time).
* GoKartingWithBowser: She was once arrested on obscenity charges and spend 10 days in jail. She proved so charming she [[RefugeInAudacity ended up having dinner with the warden]].
* [[FairForItsDay Fair For Her Day]]: She supported gay rights in ''[[TheRoaringTwenties the 1920s]]''
* HiddenDepths: Contrary to the public image she liked to present, Mae tended to avoid glitzy nightlife and elaborate premieres (except for her own productions), preferring to stay at home and apply herself diligently to mastering the writer's craft through a long, painstaking process of trial and error, endlessly drafting and redrafting notions and themes for her plays.
* ICanChangeMyBeloved: Mae was not fond of this trope. As she put it, "Don't marry a man to reform him. That's what reform schools are for."
%%* MsFanservice
* NoSuchThingAsBadPublicity: [[invoked]]"''I believe in censorship. I made a fortune out of it''."
* OrAreYouJustHappyToSeeMe: ''"Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"'', supposedly said by Mae West at the railway station in Los Angeles upon her return from Chicago, when a Los Angeles police officer was assigned to escort her home in 1936. She delivered the line on film to George Hamilton in her last movie, ''{{Sextette}}'' (1978).
** But the best-known form is when she said it to Cary Grant (his first film role) in ''She Done Him Wrong''.
* PigeonholedVoiceActor: Mae's voice is so iconic that it's been parodied to death, both in her era and in the modern day. Creator/MelissaMcCarthy can actually do a spot-on vocal impression of her (as seen on an ''SNL'' sketch featuring a Mae West knock-off who keeps falling down the stairs in her movies).
* PimpedOutDress: She liked wearing elaborate dresses in her films, including with thick fur at the hem.
* PrettyInMink: She loved wearing furs (see the image above) in her films and real life. She bought a white rabbit cape, and muff with her first paycheck from stage work. She also wore a couple dresses in her films with thick fur hems (which were in styles where heavy hems were not that easy to walk around in).
* TheRival: To [[Creator/JayneMansfield Jayne Mansfield]] in later years.
* ReallyGetsAround: Her characters were known for this. But she herself was also very much sexually active even at old age.
* ThatsWhatSheSaid: Her jokes were often forms of this.