She Done Him Wrong (1933)

Director: Lowell Sherman
Screenwriters: Mae West, Harvey F. Thew, John Bright
Adapted from: Diamon Lil by Mae West
Cast: Mae West, Cary Grant, Owen Moore, Noah Beery, Gilbert Roland, David Landau, Rafaela Ottiano, Dewey Robinson
Nomination: Picture

From American Masters, “Mae West: Dirty Blonde”

Too often, controversial films from the 1930s come off as incredibly tame for modern audiences.  It can be amusing to think there was once a time when a woman wearing a skirt that showed her knees was considered amoral and indecent or watching a movie in which a character says “damn” was deemed a sinful act.  Saying it’s refreshing to come across a film that actually lives up to its controversy is odd, but it’s a true testament to Mae West and her wit and cleverness that She Done Him Wrong is just as bawdry as the low-brow comedies of the 2010s.

If asked to describe what She Done Him Wrong is about, the best I think anyone could do is say, “Mae West.”  What there is of plot and story is not at all compelling—at least not as compelling as West’s dialogue.  Really, for a film just north of 60 minutes, you’d think there’d more effort to keep the action tight, if anything to maintain the audience’s attention.  As it is, though, whatever happens in the film—there’s something about counterfeiting and prostitution, another thing about Lou’s former (for her, not him) lover breaking out of prison to make sure Lou is faithful to him, and yet another thread involves a city mission that might actually be a front or at least used as an undercover ruse for the Hawk—is as forgettable as the one-liners are memorable.

  • “Come up again—anytime.”
  • “Haven’t you ever met a man that could make you happy?”
    “Sure, lots of times.”
  • “Listen, when women go wrong men go right after them.”
  • “A little spicy, but not too raw; you know what I mean?”
  • “One of the finest women to ever walk the streets.”
  • “That’s it… loosen up, unbend… you’ll feel better.”
  • “You wouldn’t be much use to me dead.”

With She Done Him Wrong—also, who’s the “Him” who’s been wronged?—come for Mae West, stay for Mae West, then come for her again.