Thursday, June 30, 2011

She Done Him Wrong (Sherman. 1933)

"Why don't you come up sometime and see me?"

Sex sells. It always has and it always will. Something I find hilarious is the idea that older films were not as openly sexual as the films that are released today. It is true that this generation may be a bit more blatant in their sexuality, but sex has always been a major force in popular culture. A perfect example of this is the sultry and voluptuous sex symbol, Mae West. In the Academy Award nominated film, She Done Him Wrong, West oozes a brand of sexuality that actresses today can only imitate.

She Done Him Wrong is a film based around a character that West herself invented. In the twenties, Mae West was a playwright whose shows were often shut down due to censorship issues. It makes sense that in the pre-code Hollywood era West would bring these ideas and characters to the screen. Lady Lou is a singer in the barroom saloon of her benefactor, Gus. She is showered in diamonds that she loves far more than any man, but Lou still gets around.

This all changes when she uncovers some of the secrets that Gus has been hiding from her, and when she meets a seemingly nice Salvation Army director played by the always suave Cary Grant. The story that accompanies these events is very fast paced, but it has to be in order to fit the sixty-six minute runtime. There is a fine line between a well executed shorter feature and a film that is running through chaos, but the whole thing seems to work. In fact, She Done Him Wrong is the shortest film to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. I credit this to the ever-calm acting style of Mae West.

Though it is rather short, She Done Him Wrong does feature some of West’s most famous lines and innuendoes. Most notably, Lady Lou gets to ask the always seductive “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?”. This single quote stands for the entirety of Mae West’s career, and when you hear her say it you will realize why she is the original Hollywood sex icon. She screams, oozes, walks and talks a powerful sexual innuendo.

I would hardly call She Done Him Wrong a great film, but it is pretty good. If anything, watching Mae West do what she does is a really fun experience. She was a sex symbol before it was the thing to do, and her curves and low key voice were perfect for that order. Pre-code movies are pretty interesting, As far as they go, this one is not so bad.

She Done Him Wrong: C

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