Comedy-drama starring debut for Mae West looks and sounds just fine. 3.5 Stars

Mae West comes into her own as a full-fledged movie star in Lowell Sherman’s She Done Him Wrong, a comedy-drama that establishes West’s persona in Hollywood and brings her celebrated play Diamond Lil to the screen in a slightly altered state.

She Done Him Wrong (1933)
Released: 09 Feb 1933
Rated: Passed
Runtime: 66 min
Director: Lowell Sherman
Genre: Comedy, Drama, History
Cast: Mae West, Cary Grant, Owen Moore
Writer(s): Mae West, Harvey F. Thew, John Bright
Plot: In the Gay Nineties, a seductive nightclub singer contends with several suitors, including a jealous escaped convict and a handsome temperance league member.
IMDB rating: 6.4
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Universal
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 6 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 06/29/2021
MSRP: $24.95

The Production: 3.5/5

After making her screen debut in 1932’s Night After Night and, according to star George Raft, “stealing everything but the cameras,” Mae West began a series of starring roles in movies by bringing her most celebrated stage success Diamond Lil to the screen. Renamed She Done Him Wrong and slightly rewritten to step around the Production Code office that had strictly forbidden a big screen adaptation of the notorious play, the movie was a tremendous box-office smash, easing Paramount’s financial worries in the depths of the Depression and establishing for Mae a screen persona she would ride to fame and fortune for the remainder of her life.

Established stage personality Lady Lou (Mae West) is the toast of the Bowery with her glittering diamonds, her bawdy songs, and her ability to entice every man who looks her way, but her heart of gold can only take her so far since she’s attached to some of New York’s most unsavory characters: convicted criminal Chick Clark (Owen Moore) who carries a deadly torch for her from his jail cell, saloon owner Gus Jordan (Noah Beery Sr.) who employs Lou and serves currently as her protector, and assemblyman Dan Flynn (David Landau) who wants to take over the criminal enterprises of the Bowery and become Lou’s new protector. Only mission leader Captain Cummings (Cary Grant) seems to hang around the club looking to save Lou from the dangerous men who will do anything to win her favor.

Mae West’s play Diamond Lil has been brought to the screen by the lady herself abetted by screenwriters Harvey Thew and John Bright. While the white slavery subplot that involves ingénue Rochelle Hudson (playing innocent waif Sally) has been tempered somewhat, most of Mae West’s racy dialogue, muttered oh’s and ah’s, and sassy one-liners remain intact and continue to be hilarious almost a century after the fact. Director Lowell Sherman begins by marvelously establishing his 1890s setting in a montage of sights and sounds that create the movie’s time and place most accurately. Then, we’re regaled for almost ten minutes as the men in the bowery saloon admire a nude portrait of the star (seen for just a flash and partially blocked by some discrete heads) and proclaim her beauty and desirability in the starkest of terms. Once the lady arrives, of course, in her picture hats, form-fitting gowns, and flashy jewelry, she’s front and center for almost the rest of the (surprisingly brief) 66-Minute running time. The subplot with the various criminal activities being carried on by saloon owner Gus and his co-conspirators Rita (Rafaela Ottiano) and Serge (a young Gilbert Roland looking particularly dashing) involving not only street crime and prostitution but also counterfeiting along with an undercover cop known as “The Hawk” who’s sniffing around are given short shrift in the script, but that’s almost a necessity in order to leave enough time for Mae West’s three performance numbers: “I Wonder Where My Easy Rider’s Gone” (which caused something of a sensation at the time), “A Guy What Takes His Time” and the infamous “Frankie and Johnny” (which gets interrupted by the film’s denouement, otherwise the Production Code might not have allowed it in the movie at all). While the Edith Head gowns for Mae and all of the jewelry give the movie a flashy veneer, it’s pretty clear She Done Him Wrong is pretty much a threadbare production (costing a little over $200K and grossing ten times its cost), but that didn’t stop the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from nominating it for Best Picture in 1933.

Mae West’s Lady Lou/Diamond Lil is the persona she’d adopt for the remainder of her career: man hungry and loaded with innuendo-laden come-ons to attract the objects of her affection along with a heart of gold to help the downtrodden (not only helping Sally after she attempts suicide when a married man casts her aside but also purchasing the mission on the sly so there would be no more worry about paying rent) and treating everyone fairly until she has a reason not to do so (men who betray her, women who look down on her). Cary Grant only pops in and out on a couple of occasions, but he’s there long enough to establish something of an attractive personality (though certainly not the suave, slick charmer he’d finally hit on for Topper). Noah Berry, Owen Moore, and David Landau certainly have enough time to establish their crooked characters as do Rafaela Ottiano and Gilbert Roland. Most appealing of the supporting players is Dewey Robinson’s Spider Kane, a burly bouncer who’s Lou’s right-hand guard dog and enforcer. Mae’s African-American domestic in this film is Louise Beavers. She isn’t ordered to peel Mae a grape (that would be in the next movie and directed to someone else), but she gives and gets some choice lines here.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Slight black and white scratches are present here and there throughout the picture, but it’s otherwise been cleaned up beautifully. Except for a soft shot here and there, the images are very crisp, and the grayscale is most impressive with rich black levels and clear whites. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is very representative of this fairly early era of sound recording. There’s a little bit of scratchiness early on, but for the most part, the track is free of hiss, crackle, pops, and flutter. The dialogue comes through crisply and has been mixed professionally with the music and sound effects to make an appealing audio experience.

Special Features: 3/5

Audio Commentaries: two are offered on the disc, by David Del Valle and Kat Ellinger. Both are stream-of-consciousness tracks rather than historical or academic ones. Del Valle met the redoubtable Mae near the end of her life and has some stories to share along with his admiration for her career carved out on her own terms. Ellinger’s celebrates West’s independence in an era when women didn’t hold much power in Hollywood but otherwise rambles unappealingly.

Robert Osborne Introduction (2:18, SD): the late host of TCM takes a few moments to offer some background on the production of the movie ported over from the DVD release.

She Does Him Right (7:56, SD) 1933 Pooch the Pup cartoon

Kino Trailers: Night After Night, I’m No Angel, Belle of the Nineties, Goin’ to Town, Every Day’s a Holiday, My Little Chickadee.

Overall: 3.5/5

Mae West comes into her own as a full-fledged movie star in Lowell Sherman’s She Done Him Wrong, a comedy-drama that establishes West’s persona in Hollywood and brings her celebrated play Diamond Lil to the screen in a slightly altered state.

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Matt Hough

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B-ROLL

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Thanks for the uplifting review :D! Did you check out the cartoon and if you did what the PQ and Audio like?
 

Robert Crawford

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Of the three Mae West Blu-rays I've watched over the last 18 hours or so, I still prefer this movie as my favorite of the three. I'm always was letdown by "My Little Chickadee" as it's not as funny as it should have been and some film edits are just disjointed to me. While "I'm No Angel" has its moments like with the lions and the courtroom scene, I just like the shorter "She Done Him Wrong" more as its 66 minutes runtime is perfect to me.