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"She Done Him Wrong"

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"She Done Him Wrong"

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Character's Name: Captain Cummings
Release Date:  January 27, 1933
Director:  Lowell Sherman
Studio:  Paramount Publix
Running Time: 65 minutes

Cast: Mae West (Lady Lou), Cary Grant (Capt. Cummings), Owen Moore (Chick Clark), Gilbert Roland (Serge Stanieff), Noah Beery, Sr. (Gus Jordan), Rafaela Ottiano (Russian Rosie), David Landau (Dan Flynn), Rochelle Hudson (Sally), Fuzzy Knight (Rag-time Kelly), Tammany Young (Chuck Connors), Dewey Robinson (Spider Kane), Grace La Rue (Frances)

- by Zoë Shaw
Lady Lou owns a saloon, run by Gus. Capt. Cummings (from a local church mission) visits Lou often hoping to save her. She falls for him. Lou kills a nasty criminal, and Cummings turns out to be a police agent, who arrests her.

- by Gael Sweeney
SHE DONE HIM WRONG is a re-write (and cleaned up!) version of West's Broadway hit DIAMOND LIL. West is Lady Lou, a "Gay Nineties" Bowery "hostess" and mistress of a gangster, Gus Jordan (Noah Beery, Sr.). Grant plays Captain Cummings, a Salvation Army do-gooder who opens a mission next door to Lady Lou's saloon. Lou finds it hard to believe that the hunky Cummings isn't just another man she can seduce and manipulate -- "You can be had," she says in the memorable scene in which the good Captain is invited to "Come up sometime and see me -- I'll tell your fortune." The Captain, while beguiled by Lou, rejects her advances -- mainly because he is, in fact, an undercover police officer looking to get the goods on a white slavery ring being run by Lady Lou's pals Russian Rosie and her lover Serge. When Lou accidentally kills Rosie and the white slavery plot is exposed, Captain Cummings reveals his true identity and carries Lady Lou away -- but the "handcuffs" that she expects him to place on her wrists turn out to be a diamond ring for her finger!

Cary serves mainly as the object of West's lust here -- a welcome turn around from the typical lusted-after ingénue! Seeing Cary play the blushing virgin to West's predatory vamp is fun -- if completely ridiculous! And Cary as a Salvation Army missionary is also the silliest premise possible. When he is revealed to be an undercover policeman, it results in a deus ex machina that throws any kind of reality (if there was any to begin with!) out the window. Lady Lou's past as a prostitute, bootlegger, and even murderess are whited out as she faces a life as the happy wife of a police captain!

VARIETY Film Review - February 14, 1933
- by "Bige"
- submitted by Barry Martin
Only one previous picture part - a small one in 'Night After Night' - and now Mae West is starring!  It looks as though Paramount brought Miss West along too fast.  In New York she rates the billing but elsewhere, where they may not know Mae from Joan of Arc, the name over the title of this picture probably won't attract much attention the first time.  Besides, there's not a box office moniker in the rest of the cast.

Only alternative to a strong drawing cast nowadays if a picture wants business, is strong entertainment.  This one has neither.

Folks in the sticks seeing Mae West for the first time in this flicker, without having heard of or about her before, are likely to inquire as to what reform school Mae was brought up in.  They may not know it, but they'll be seeing Mae in 'Diamond Lil.'  Nothing much changed except the title, but don't tell that to Will Hays.

Atmospherically, 'She Done Him Wrong' is interesting since it takes the customers back to the '90's and inside a Bowery free-and-easy, but mostly following a few highlights in the career of Diamond Lou, nee Lil.  Its story is pretty feeble and stories are pretty important in pictures because personality is less a factor on celluloid than in person in the talkers it seems.

With the material Lowell Sherman, director this time instead of actor, turned in a commendable job.  He tackled the script with a tongue-in-cheek attitude that takes nothing too seriously, and he restrained Miss West from going too far, something Mae has never been able to do on her own.

The locale, the clothes and the types are interesting, and so is Miss West in her picture hats, straight jacket gowns and with so much jewelry that she looks like a Knickerbocker ice plant.  But Miss West is chiefly interesting because she looks nice and youthful, and nice and thin.  

Deletions in the script from its original 1928 legit form were few, with only the roughest of the rough stuff out.  White slavery angle is thinly disguised, with the girls instead shipped to Frisco to pick pockets.  Character titles are changed only slightly, such as from Lil to Lou, etc.  The swan bed is in, but for a flash only, with Mae doing her stuff on the chaise lounge in this version.  The closing boy friend, a Salvation Army fellow in the play, is just a Bowery missionary as rewritten.  When Lou bumps off the villainous Rita (it's Rosie now) she still says, 'I'm doing a job that I never did before.'

Caster delivered some excellent types for the colorful support parts and the troupe is first rate as a whole.  Numerous ex-vaudevillians besides Miss West in the cast, including Cary Grant, the soul-saver; Fuzzy Knight, who whips a piano, and Grace La Rue.  The latter, who headlined when Miss West was chasing acrobats in the No. 2 spot, has a bit.  Rafaella Ottiano, who does Rita, is a carry-over from the original legit cast.

With this strong line-up and others, including Gilbert Roland, Noah Beery, David Landau and Owen Moore as background, they're never permitted to be anything more than just background.  Miss West gets all the lens gravy and full figure most of the time.  When not flashing the ice and steaming up the boys, she sings 'Easy Rider,' 'I Like a Man Who Takes His Time,' or 'Frankie and Johnnie.'  All somewhat cleaned up lyrically, but Mae couldn't sing a lullaby without making it sexy.

A Bowery street set and a heavy interior of 'Gus Jordan's joint' are exceptionally good in appearance, and probably won't get many arguments about accuracy or lack of it.  But the nifty looking chorus gals in the Bowery joint's show don't seem to fit the location.

Mae West in pictures should stand out just as she did in legit - as a distinct personality.  There's no one just like her and she can be built up to mean something for film box offices.  But she needs extreme care in the literary department.  Also some nursing.  This premature shove to the foreground could retard her progress.  Obviously due to studio hunger for a new attraction, with Miss West expected to attract before she is known.  If not rushed she should be able to build all by herself.  

NEW YORK TIMES Film Review - February 11, 1933 
- by Mordaunt Hall
- submitted by Barry Martin
Mae West is to be seen at the Paramount in a hearty and blustering cinematic cartoon of the devilish '90s. With the haughty strut and the nasal twang which are the principal assets of her repertoire, she filled the screen with gaudy humor. Illustrating the troubled career of Lady Lou, whose heart is bigger than her sense of decorum, she rhymed "amateur" with "connoisseur" in one of her beer-hall ballads and, on the whole, gave a remarkable suspicious impersonation of Diamond Lil. In fact, "She Done Him Wrong," with a few discreet cuts and alterations, is the same "Diamond Lil" without which no bibliography of Miss West's literary works would be complete.

Most highly prized of the Bowery belles, Lady Lou is notable both for her beauty, which is ornate, and for her wit, which is not dull. Although her reputation is nightly torn to bits by the pious in the mission next door to the saloon where she holds court, district leaders and other local Napoleons fight for her favors. Despite the title, she did nobody wrong. While her man is doing a "rap" she has to live, and she has chosen a good location. "My career is diamonds," she says, and men fight for the privilege of adding to her collection of jewelry.

It is Lady Lou's sentimental nature that brings her down. The girl she saves from suicide is sold into white slavery. Russian Rosie, whom she tries to befriend, turns up with counterfeit money. The man for whom she makes an unprecedented purchase of a soul-saving institution flashes a Federal agent's badge on her. Even Chick Clark, who should have known Lady Lou better than that, escapes from prison for the specific purpose of questioning her fidelity. In the finale Lou is serenely singing "Frankie and Johnnie," while her indignant admirers are converging on her from various parts of the compass.

Miss West gives a highly amusing performance, which necessarily overshadows the commendable efforts of Cary Grant, Noah Beery, Owen Moore, David Landau and Rafaela Ottiano. Lowell Sherman's direction is light and fast.  

- by Kathy Fox
This is Cary Grant's 8th film for Paramount and his first with Mae West, the other being I'M NO ANGEL which also would be released in 1933.  SHE DONE HIM WRONG is based on a play called DIAMOND LIL, which had been written earlier by West.  This is definitely her movie, and Grant appears as Captain Cummings/The Hawk probably for fewer than ten minutes total on the screen.  Cummings runs a church next to the saloon where Diamond Lil is working and he makes many visits over there in an attempt to "save souls."  There is counterfeiting going on at the saloon, plus a few other shady dealings, and when Captain Cummings, now the Hawk, comes in to arrest the bad guys, Lil is saved by Cummings, who takes her in a separate carriage and then proceeds to take all her diamond rings off her left hand and slips on an engagement ring.  Kind of corny, but cute.  It is said by some that West discovered Grant on the Paramount lot.  "If he can talk, I'll take him," she was purported to have said.  Grant obviously by this time was on his way to stardom, and her attention to him only added to his already bounding popularity.  Also at this juncture in his personal life, he is about to meet Virginia Cherrill in the summer of 1933 and she will become his first wife on February 10th the following year. 

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