“When women go wrong, men go right after them.”
Diamond Lil (Mae West) works in the saloon of her benefactor Gus (Noah Beery, Sr.), who secretly traffics in white slavery and counterfeiting. Meanwhile, an undercover cop posing as a Salvation Army captain (Cary Grant) tries to arrest Gus and his cronies.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Cary Grant Films
- Mae West Films
- Play Adaptations
- Strong Females
- Undercover Cops and Agents
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this classic Mae West vehicle — in which “West struts her way through Gay Nineties New York, encountering all sorts of unsavory characters” who “either die or go to jail” — “is not the comedy masterpiece that many critics contend it to be.” Nonetheless, West “got to showcase her self-assured and uninhibited pre-Legion of Decency brand of sexuality, in which she lets fly with double entendres, which usually relate to her own sexual prowess, and displays a brazen sex-is-fun attitude that only Jean Harlow shared with her.” He adds that it’s “amazing that one moment she can look so overweight and ridiculous strapped into her tight garments”, and “a second later” be “mysteriously seductive as she bats her lashes and raises her eyebrows, grins knowingly, swings out a hip, and says something women are supposedly too shy to say.” West is a pleasure to watch — but be forewarned that while you’ll enjoy the quips, you’ll forget the plot immediately.
- Cary Grant in his first major role
- Mae drawling one of the most (mis)quoted lines in movie history:
“Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?”
- Plenty of memorable quips:
“I wasn’t always rich. No, there was a time I didn’t know where my next husband was coming from.”
Yes. As one of the key movies which prompted the formation of the Hays Production Code, it’s a part of cinematic history film fanatics shouldn’t miss.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)
One thought on “She Done Him Wrong (1932)”
Even though I’m not a huge fan of Mae West, I have to admit this is one of her more successful and satisfying films. Director Lowell Sherman did a nifty job of laying out the complicated plot (so many characters running in and out in just over an hour!). I especially like the opening montage sequence, in which Sherman captures the period of the film and the atmosphere of where it takes place.
Between dodging death threats and somewhat falling into various arms of various men, it’s a wonder West can compose herself enough to perform her semi-jelly roll tunes. She does look great in some terrific outfits – and even manages some genuine acting! And Grant is wonderfully Grant in this early, solid performance.
I won’t say time has made the film’s humor fall flat. It holds up ok, even if it isn’t wildly memorable. Here and there, though, there is the occasional gem –
Grant: Haven’t ya ever found a man that could make ya happy?
West: Sure. Lotsa times.
Blink and you’ll miss the gay couple (!) in jail when West goes to visit an ex-beau.