She Done Him Wrong stars Mae West as Lady Lou and Carey Grant as Captain Cummings. The movie was released on January 27, 1933 and grossed 2.2 million dollars. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.
The time period of She Done Him Wrong is the 1890’s in the Bowery of New York. Lady Lou is a much sought after saloon singer who has men falling over themselves to please her. They are enraptured by her beauty and presence.
Mae West is enchanting as Lady Lou. No one can deliver seductive double entendres like Mae West did. West was only 5 feet tall, but she possessed a powerhouse of presence in front of the camera. She was obviously very comfortable and confident performing. Another thing that I love about Mae West was her body image. She had a nice round face that looked healthy and very unlike the preferred sunken check look that many other Hollywood starlets had, even back in those days. Mae West’s costumes emphasized her full hips and ample bosom.
Lou is taken care of by her boss Gus Jordan (played by Noah Beery Sr.) who she does not know is involved in trafficking prostitution and counterfeit money. Gus showers Lou with diamonds and anything else that she wants.
Lou meets Captain Cummings as takes an immediate liking to him. Captain Cummings set up a City Mission for the homeless right next door to Gus Jordan’s saloon.
Carey Grant looks very young in this movie, but he was already 29 years old when he did She Done Him Wrong.
Lady Lou is very attracted to Cummings and encourages him to visit her. Captain Cummings remains professional despite Lou’s invitations.
A young girl named Sally comes into the saloon and goes into the bathroom to kill herself after she has been led on by a man she did not know is married. Sally is caught and prevented from killing herself. Lou has Sally brought up to her room to look after her. Lady Lou has a soft spot for good people.
Lou hands over Sally to Gus and two of his business partners, Russian Rita and her lover Sergei Stanieff, believing that they will find Sally work. They do find her work but it is not legitimate. This part really didn’t jive with me because Lou was supposed to be street smart. How did she not suspect that Sergei and Russian Rita were up to know good.
Another notable character in She Done Him Wrong is Pearl, played by Louise Beavers. Pearl is Lady Lou’s maid. Black actors were very limited in the kind of roles they were hired to play. Their characters were mostly subservient. At some point I am going to do a post on that. I love old classic movies, but Hollywood for the most part preferred to portray people of color as inferior and born to be subservient to other people.
When Mae West gained power of her own in Hollywood she insisted that roles for black people be added to the productions she did. Granted the roles themselves were not the best, but she still wanted to do her part in making sure that blacks actors could get work. Mae West personally brought Louise Beavers on board for She Done Him Wrong and wanted Louise to play opposite her. The following year in 1934, Louise Beavers went on to star as Delilah in the original Imitation of Life. In Imitation of Life Delilah is a maid but her character is not overshadowed by the white actress who stars in it which is Claudette Colbert. Delilah’s story is paramount to the movie.
All of the men are enamored of Lou and that includes Sergei who gives a diamond brooch to Lou that really belongs to Russian Rita. From here on in all hell breaks loose.
Lou’s former boyfriend Chick escapes from jail and finds the she has moved on from him. Chick tries to strangle Lou.
Captain Cummings comes to the rescue. I won’t tell you the details. You will have to watch the movie yourself.