The National Portrait Gallery is open to the public Wed - Sun, with timed-entry passes required for all visitors. On-site tours and events are currently suspended and all public programs will be online
"I used to be Snow White, but I . . . drifted." Mae West—actress, playwright, and screenwriter—was known equally for her double-entendres. She first burst into fame dancing the "shimmy" in the 1918 Shubert Brothers revue Sometime. Soon she began incorporating outrageous moves and lines into all of her performances. In 1926, she wrote, directed, and starred in the Broadway play Sex, a show that created such a scandal that she was prosecuted on morals charges. West served eight days in jail but capitalized on the widespread media attention it gave her. Undaunted, she wrote The Wicked Age, Pleasure Man, and The Constant Sinner before striking gold in 1928 with her play Diamond Lil. Hollywood then beckoned, where West—after boosting Cary Grant’s career in 1933 in She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel—scored her biggest box-office hit co-starring with W. C. Fields in My Little Chickadee (1940).