Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mae West, Cary Grant, Owen Moore, Gilbert Roland, Noah Beery Sr., David Landau, Rafaela Ottiano, Dewey Robinson, Rochelle Hudson, Tammany Young, Fuzzy Knight, Grace La Rue, Robert Homans, Louise Beavers
Written by: Harvey F. Thew, John Bright, based on a play by Mae West
Directed by: Lowell Sherman
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 66
Date: 01/27/1933

She Done Him Wrong (1933)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dangerous Curves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I came to Mae West late, in 2021, when Kino Lorber released a batch of her movies on Blu-ray. I was familiar with her snide, sexy drawl, and her memorable one-liners, and the way she seemed to sway and sashay across a room, rather than moving her feet. But I had never seen a whole movie. Having watched four of them now, I'm of a mixed mind. She truly was one of a kind; her sex appeal came not from her mathematically-impressive curves, but from her attitude. She liked sex and let us know it, but she also liked to turn down all propositions. Her unavailability made her more desirable. Yet, even in the pre-code era, the movies shoehorned her bawdy style into a formula: she gets the guy in the end, and it feels like a letdown. Post 1934, forget about it. Her best films are no doubt She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel (1933), both pre-codes, and both co-starring Cary Grant, her greatest foil.

Directed by Lowell Sherman, and based on a play written by West, She Done Him Wrong came first, in January of 1933. She plays Lady Lou, who sings in a New York saloon during the Gay 90s. Her boss plies her with diamonds, but on the side, he's a shady criminal, dealing in prostitution and pickpocketing. There's a murder and a betrayal, and a former boyfriend of Lou's escapes from prison to wreak havoc. Grant's Captain Cummings saves the day. It's a brisk 66 minutes, and it contains some great West lines. Cummings asks her: "Haven't you ever met a man that could make you happy?" and Lou replies, "Sure, lots of times." But the classic is: "Why don't you come up some time and see me?"

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