Saturday, June 26, 2021

Tonight's Movie: She Done Him Wrong (1933) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933) is one of nine Mae West films being released on Blu-ray next week by Kino Lorber.

West's second film, costarring a young Cary Grant, is being released in a Special Edition from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The disc includes an introduction by the late Robert Osborne; two different commentary tracks, by David Del Valle and Kat Ellinger; the Walter Lantz cartoon SHE DONE HIM RIGHT (1933); and half a dozen trailers for other West films.

It's a terrific package for a marvelous film. This was my first time to watch SHE DONE HIM WRONG, and I found it an impressive 66 minutes -- and surely one of the "pre-Code-iest" movies I've ever seen.

Although I've seen the vast majority of Cary Grant's movies, I'd always avoided his two pre-mega-stardom films with West, the other being I'M NO ANGEL (1933). When I was growing up she was more of a comedy punch line than anything else, and for years I wasn't interested in digging deeper, especially as she seemed such an incongruous match with the younger, dashing Grant. I'm really glad I decided it was time to do a "deep dive" and educate myself on her work, as I've thoroughly enjoyed both SHE DONE HIM WRONG and her first film, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932).

SHE DONE HIM WRONG was inspired by a 1928 play written by West, DIAMOND LIL. Deemed too risque even in pre-Code Hollywood, DIAMOND LIL was rewritten for movies, with her character's name changed to Lady Lou.

Lou is a saloon singer in the Gay '90s who's surrounded by many interested men including saloon owner Gus (Noah Beery Sr.), politico Dan Flynn (David Landau), grifter Serge (Gilbert Roland), and the man working next door at a Salvation Army type mission, Captain Cummings (Grant). Lou's jealous boyfriend Chick (Owen Moore) won't be happy if he gets out of jail and discovers Lou has not exactly been lonely and pining away for him while he's locked up.

In a little over an hour's running time Lou contends with a variety of sordid problems including rescuing a young woman (Rochelle Hudson) from Gus's nefarious plans, accidentally killing a jealous woman named Rita (Rafaela Ottiano) in self-defense, and having Chick escape from jail and turn up at the saloon, ready to kill when he realizes Lou doesn't want to run away with him. Meanwhile, Captain Cummings may not be precisely who he seems to be...

Rather like Marlene Dietrich, who it took me a long time to appreciate, West is a completely unique film persona in both looks and personality. She's front and center for almost the entire movie and absolutely owns the screen, whether she's tossing out clever double entendres or singing "Frankie and Johnny" during a brilliantly staged climactic action scene. And that hair-combing scene after Rita's unfortunate demise? Wow...! It all builds to an ending which is perfection, down to the last line of dialogue. In short, I was impressed. So was the Academy, which nominated SHE DONE HIM WRONG for Best Picture.

And as for West's song "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone," I have no idea how that ever got past the censors. By today's standards it's tame, of course -- and part of its brilliance is that it would sail right over the heads of children -- but the meaning is more than clear.

Grant's relatively small role probably could have been capably played by any number of actors, but it's fun to see him in his second year in films, as he began climbing the ladder toward stardom. The rest of the cast, which includes Louise Beavers and Fuzzy Knight, does a terrific job creating the inhabitants of Lou's seedy world.

SHE DONE HIM WRONG was directed by Lowell Sherman and filmed by Charles Lang. Harvey Thew and John Bright are credited with the screenplay along with West.

The print and sound are both excellent for a film of this vintage; the picture may be a bit soft and the sound a bit tinny, yet it's hard to imagine a film from 1932 looking or sounding better.

One of the things I love about movies is that somehow, the more films you watch, the more there is to discover; the viewing pool keeps getting deeper instead of shrinking.  I thoroughly enjoyed this film and look forward to revisiting it with the commentaries to learn more about West and the film. I highly recommend this Blu-ray release for anyone who enjoys pre-Code films.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Vienna said...

As you say, Mae was ‘completely unique’ Mae had her own screen character and played it in every film! . I love her persona and her songs. And great to see the young Cary Grant.

1:16 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm looking forward to seeing more of her films this summer, Vienna! I will probably continue watching them in chronological order. That means more Cary Grant coming soon!

Best wishes,

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I guess cary grant needed acting experience since he was a professional stilt walker on stage. Surprised he had his shirt on. You know what i mean.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Grant actually did quite a bit of theatrical acting along with his early jobs on stilts. Really enjoyed learning about that aspect of his career from the recent Scott Eyman biography.

Best wishes,

8:18 PM  

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