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'She Done Him Wrong' - Racy Mae West

Come Up and See Me Sometime

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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Racy!

She Done Him Wrong DVD

Paramount Pictures
A dated melodrama, She Done Him Wrong features the oft-misquoted Mae West line, “Why don't you come up sometime ‘n see me?” It’s fun to see Cary Grant in one of his earliest leading man roles with the infamous femme fatale, perhaps a touch past her prime, in She Done Him Wrong.

Based on a stage play that West herself helped write - the scandalous, “Diamond Lil” - the movie kicked off the institution of a tough Hollywood production code. The overtly sexy, seductive Mae West and her double entendres in She Done Him Wrong set the stage for decades of blue-nose censorship.

The Plot

Lady Lou (West) is a wildly popular saloon singer on New York’s wild Bowery scene, dripping with diamonds bestowed on her by her conquests, including the owner of the saloon, Gus (Noah Beery). Unbeknownst to Lou, Gus is involved in an unsavory business - something ugly to do with very naughty pictures of helpless young women.

Meanwhile, sultry, salty Lou is juggling admirers. She’s got a jealous boyfriend in the slammer upstate, who won’t be happy when he finds out she’s hooked up with Gus. She’s got a little flirtation going on with the gigolo who belongs to Gus’ partner in crime, Russian Rita. And she pretends to be receptive to the advances of up-and-coming gangster Dan Flynn, who’s about to give Gus up to the police. At the same time, Lou is actually falling for the stalwart young Cary Grant, who’s running the mission next door to the saloon.

Things really get going when the boyfriend escapes from prison, Rita discovers Lou with her boy toy, and the police come into the picture. With all this going on, Lou still find time to wear a series of form-fitting gowns, and sings a couple of racy numbers with highly suggestive lyrics, including "Frankie and Johnny" and "Easy Rider".

The Cast of 'She Done Him Wrong'

West displays the sneering, leering, bad-girl charm that made her a star and made the movie a smash hit across the country. At 39, she was a little old to be playing opposite the much-younger Cary Grant, but it didn’t bother audiences at the time. The movie shot Grant to instant stardom, even though his trademark easy charm is not on display here -- he‘s a touch wooden.

The rest of the cast is appropriately over the top in this rather silly melodrama. Louise Beavers has a thankless, stereotyped role as Lou’s black maid and Gilbert Roland is extremely oily as the gigolo. Dewey Robinson has a nice turn as Lou’s bodyguard, obviously head over heels in love with her himself, and a great big lug.

This movie belongs to Mae, and she’s got some great lines:

“I wasn’t always rich. There were times I didn’t know where my next husband was coming from.”

“Listen, when women go wrong, men go right after ’em.”

And, when asked whether she ever found a man who could make her happy: “Sure. Lots of times.”

The Backstory

As racy as the movie was for the day, the play was even more scandalous. In “Diamond Lil,” West and her cohorts at the saloon were prostitutes, and the saloon owner was selling young women into prostitution. The battles over toning down the movie resulted in the character’s name change, a title change, and a few other cosmetic touches, but the outlines of the play were still clear in She Done Him Wrong.

Within months of the film‘s release and huge popularity, the “National Legion of Decency” was formed. The backlash against She Done Him Wrong helped install a much tougher censor as the head of the production board office, and led to the implementation of the production code. West’s liberated, strong character had unintended consequences for artistic freedom.

'She Done Him Wrong' - the bottom line

Mae West made funnier, more entertaining movies and She Done Him Wrong is dated, stagy and a little silly today. Nevertheless, it‘s interesting for her most famous line, and for the historic fact that it drove Hollywood into a period of self-imposed censorship that endured for decades.

Recommended for You

If you liked She Done Him Wrong, you may like other Mae West films, such as My Little Chickadee, I'm No Angel or Go West, Young Man.

'She Done Him Wrong' at a Glance:

Year: 1933, Black and White
Director: Lowell Sherman
Running Time: 66 minutes
Studio: Paramount
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