She Done Him Wrong

She Done Him Wrong

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story is set in New York in the 1890s. A bawdy singer, Lady Lou (Mae West), works in the Bowery barroom saloon of her boss and benefactor, Gus Jordan (Noah Beery), who has given her many diamonds. But Lou is a lady with more men friends than anyone might imagine.

What she does not know is that Gus trafficks in prostitution and runs a counterfeiting ring to help finance her expensive diamonds. He also sends young women to San Francisco to be pickpockets. Gus works with two other crooked entertainer-assistants, Russian Rita (Rafaela Ottiano) and Rita’s lover, the suave Sergei Stanieff (Gilbert Roland). One of Gus’s rivals and former “friend” of Lou’s, named Dan Flynn (David Landau), spends most of the movie dropping hints to Lou that Gus is up to no good, promising to look after her once Gus is in jail. Lou leads him on, hinting at times that she will return to him, but eventually he loses patience and implies he’ll see her jailed if she doesn’t submit to him.

A city mission (a thinly disguised Salvation Army) is located next door to the bar. Its young director, Captain Cummings (Cary Grant), is in reality an undercover Federal agent working to infiltrate and expose the illegal activities in the bar. Gus suspects nothing; he worries only that Cummings will reform his bar and scare away his customers.

Lou’s former boyfriend, Chick Clark (Owen Moore), is a vicious criminal who was convicted of robbery and sent to prison for trying to steal diamonds for her. In his absence, she becomes attracted to the handsome young psalm-singing reformer.

Warned that Chick thinks she’s betrayed him, she goes to the prison to try to reassure him. All the inmates greet her warmly and familiarly as she walks down the cellblock. Chick becomes angry and threatens to kill her if she double-crosses or two-times him before he gets out. She lies and claims she has been true to him.

Gus gives counterfeit money to Rita and Sergei to spend. Chick escapes from jail, and police search for him in the bar. He comes into Lou’s room and starts to strangle her, breaking off only because he still loves her and cannot harm her. Lou calms him down by promising that she will go with him when she finishes her next number.

After Sergei gives Lou a diamond pin belonging to Rita, Rita starts a fight with Lou, who accidentally stabs her to death. Lou calmly combs the dead woman’s long hair to hide the fact Rita is dead while the police search the room for Chick Clark. She has her bodyguard Spider (Dewey Robinson), who “would do anything for you, Lou” dispose of Rita’s body. She then tells Spider to bring Chick, who’s hiding in an alley, back to her room upstairs. Then, while she sings “Frankie and Johnny”, she silently signals to Dan Flynn that he should go to her room to wait for her, even though she knows Chick is in there with a gun. Chick shoots Dan dead and the gunfire draws a police raid. Cummings shows his badge and reveals himself as “The Hawk,” a well-known Federal agent, as he arrests Gus and Sergei. Chick, still lurking in Lou’s room, is about to kill Lou for double-crossing him, when Cummings also apprehends him.

Cummings then takes Lou away in an open horse-drawn carriage instead of the paddywagon into which all the other criminals have been loaded. He tells her she doesn’t belong in jail and removes all her other rings and slips a diamond engagement ring onto her marriage finger.

“Where’d you get that . . . dark and handsome?” Lou asks.

“You bad girl”, he scolds.

“You’ll find out”, she coos.

REVIEW:

As I’m coming down to my last few Jayne Mansfield films, I decided it was time to find another classic bombshell whose films may be somewhat interesting. According to Netflix, Mae West should be my next choice, which is how I came across She Done Him Wrong. Now we must answer the question of if Netflix was right or wrong.

What is this about?

Saucy cabaret singer Lady Lou (Mae West) entertains lots of men but finds protection from a criminal ex-lover in the arms of a young Salvation Army captain (Cary Grant).

What did I like?

Mae. As far as I know, this is the first Mae West film that I’ve seen. Similar to the first Jayne Mansfield flick that I saw, and we know how that turned out, I was taken aback by her talent, beauty, and curves. She commands the audience’s attention everytime she’s on the screen, and by watching her you can see the influence she has had on everyone that came after her from Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield to the likes of Jessica Rabbit and Sofia Vegara. That is not to mention the uncanny resemblance she has to Christina Aguilera.

Point. Apparently, this is the shortest film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award. I’m no fan of long films, unless they can keep my attention, as regular readers very well know. With a run time of 64 minutes, this is a picture that got right to the point. The pacing of this film started out as if it was going to drag on, but once Mae sashays on the screen things pick up and you don’t even realize the film is ended until it is actually over.

Love story. Yes, there is a story of love and infidelity to be seen here, as can be inferred from the title. The fact of the matter is, though, it isn’t really touched on except for a couple of scenes, but that doesn’t take away from the film, especially when you see West trying to seduce a very young Cary Grant, not to mention the obvious affection her bodyguard has for her.

What didn’t I like?

Singing. As much as I liked Mae West in this film, I cannot deny the fact that she cannot sing. I don’t want to make it sound like she can’t sing at all, but she has a very common voice, nothing spectacular. Give the early date of this film, it is possible that the technology wasn’t around to have someone else sing for her, a technique used in films even to this day.

Whoa. The last few minutes of this film seem to take off out of nowhere. Normally, I’d be a huge fan of this, but it seemed like either a big chunk ended up on the cutting room floor or they couldn’t think of a way to wrap things up. There was just a strange disconnect between the last 15 minutes or so and the rest of the film.

Mae West originally wrote She Done Him Wrong as a stage show called Diamond Lil. From my understanding, this is actually a tamer version. I would love to see this film in its bawdy, raunchy glory. So, let’s get down to it, shall we? Would I recommend it? I think that modern audiences would enjoy it, but I cannot say that this is something you should see. Of course, for those of you out there that are fans of classic cinema, like me, you’ll eat this up. So, the best thing I can say as to if you should check this out or not is watch at your own discretion.

4 out of 5 stars

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2 Responses to “She Done Him Wrong”

  1. […] when she’s on screen. The problem is, I felt this was the same character I saw last week in She Done Him Wrong, which was one of her first films, nearly 10 years before this, if I’m not mistaken. You […]

  2. […] I don’t think anyone will ever say that Klondike Annie is Mae West’s best picture, but I don’t think that they’ll say it is her worst, either. This is just on of those films that got made because it could possibly make some money for the studio (my, some things never change). West did a masterful job writing and acting this film, but there is just something about it that doesn’t quite give it that magic spark needed so that I would be willing to brag on and on about it. That being said, this is worth a watch if you get the chance, just don’t go out of your way to do so. Save that trip for West’s better known films, like My Little Chickadee and She Done Him Wrong. […]

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