SHE DONE HIM WRONG
(director: Lowell Sherman; screenwriter: Mae West/Harvey F. Thew/John Bright; cinematographer: William Le Baron; editor: Al Hall; music: Ralph Rainger; cast: Mae West (Lady Lou), Cary Grant (Capt. Cummings), Owen Moore (Chick Clark), Gilbert Roland (Serge Stanieff), Noah Beery (Gus Jordan), David Landau (Dan Flynn), Rochelle Hudson (Sally), Dewey Robinson (Spider Kane), Rafaela Ottiano (Russian Rita), Robert Homans (Policeman Doheney), Louise Beavers (Pearl, Lou’s maid); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Le Baron; Paramount; 1933)
“West in a repeat performance of her stage role is magnificent.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Mae West’s first smash-hit is in She Done Him Wrong, her first starring role. It’s adapted from the salty 1928 Broadway play Diamond Lil that was considerably toned down to get by the Production Code, but the racy bejeweled sex queen still fills the film with sexually suggestive material, innuendos, double-entendres, and her famous leering glances. Mae becomes known here as Lady Lou instead of the notorious Diamond Lil, who is the liberated mistress of her benefactor, the crooked Gus Jordan (Noah Beery). He’s the owner of a Gay Nineties NYC Bowery dance hall, and it is not known by her that he also deals in counterfeit money and is a white slaver (prostitution). West manages to belt out saloon tunes in the gin mill like “I Like a Man Who Takes His Time,” “I Wonder Where My Easy Rider’s Gone,” and “Frankie and Johnny,” and love-sick Gus keeps giving his gal diamonds to make sure she remains his property. Before Gus, she was the gangster Chick Clark’s (Owen Moore) broad. But he’s in prison after he got ratted out for a jewel heist by aspiring shady politician Dan Flynn (David Landau), who now plots to get Lady Lou for himself after he rats out Gus and takes over as ward boss. Salvation Army Captain Cummings (Cary Grant) runs the mission next door and annoys Gus because he’s always sticking his neck into his place and trying to reform the joint. Lady Lou eyeballs Cummings and tells him to come up to her room sometime. Once there she tries to tempt him with her diamonds and her body, and in aside confidently sneers he can be had. The Captain tells her the diamonds are cold and she has lost her soul. Lou tells her black maid she wasn’t always rich: “There was a time when she didn’t know where her next husband was coming from.” When the fragile Sally (Rochelle Hudson) tries to bump herself off in the gin mill, bouncer Spider takes her to the understanding Lou for help. Lou guesses it’s a man problem and says “When women go wrong, men go right after them.” Gus comes by to see what’s happening and gets his shady business associate Rita (Rafaela Ottiano) to offer her a position on the Barbary Coast. It turns out to be a job as a forced prostitute, and that signals the end for Gus when Sally tells Captain Cummings. It turns out he’s an undercover cop in charge of eliminating corruption in the Bowery, and arrests Gus. Rita meets her end when she jealously comes after Lou with a knife and in the tussle gets killed. This comes about after Rita sees her sleazy counterfeiter gigolo boyfriend Serge (Gilbert Roland) kissing Lou and giving her a diamond pin that is hers. During this same time period Chick couldn’t wait any longer for Lou and escapes, and kills Flynn before the cops arrest him. In the last scene, after the cops arrest all the bad guys, Cary Grant takes West in his horse-drawn carriage to be his lover, believing he has tamed the wild lady.
The fast-paced movie was fun, atmospheric and surprisingly well-crafted, but it’s dated and doesn’t seem more than an entertaining flick–not as great a movie as some make it out to be. West in a repeat performance of her stage role is magnificent, and her intangible assets are what makes this one a favorite with the public.
REVIEWED ON 4/26/2005 GRADE: B