"To get you, I'd frame my own mother." This quote essentially typifies everything in "She Done Him Wrong", a gaudy Mae West picture that has a little bit of everything. Politics, drinking, smoking, counterfeit money, murder, secret agents, the clergy, prostitutes, and most of all diamonds—they all appear in the film and by this list you'd think that this is a colorful picture with much appeal...this is where you'd be wrong.
The men in "She Done Him Wrong" can't get enough of Lady Lou (Mae West). A naked painting of her hangs in the bar that her lover owns...or rather, one of her lover owns. A self-professing gold-digger, Lou is every man's fantasy. She doesn't seem picky when it comes to men, she'll go with whoever will give her the most goods. She's a smart character, but she's hollow. She's a selfish chick who doesn't have any trouble breaking men's hearts...which she does.
The movie begins with two men having a vendetta against each other. It's not political gain or money, they want Lou and only one of them has her. In the film, you quickly get used to the idea of Lou being an item.
Captain Cummings (Cary Grant) is from the mission and he's always hanging around the bar in order to win lost souls for Jesus. But since he's Cary Grant and she's Mae West, there's going to be something going on here. Yet again, we see a slight dig to the Christian person here...it would continue and become much more accentuated until it is seen in such movies like "Guys and Dolls" where the missionary would get smashed and shun her morals. I'm not sure what this is accomplishing...perhaps it's trying to show people how are no fun and Christians seem like the easiest targets.
Anyway, all that aside, the movie goes on.
We get underhands deals with Russian, counterfeit money...you can see how this bar would influence the settings for movies like "Casablanca". It's not radical, but it is interesting to note.
For being only an hour long, it takes a couple minutes before we actually see Mae West...the time she's not on screen, Lou is constantly referenced. Her beauty is put upon a pedestal so high that when West actually appears it goes something like this: that's it? I know that sounds so jaded and chauvinistic...perhaps it is.
West employs an odd style of humor. She'll saunter around and talk very blandly, her wit is dry. But she's just not funny and it could be the script be has. The one-liners feel like the belong on a sweaty after-hours stage where a drunk comedian is rambling on to a stoned crowd; but we get them here. I was missing something.
Then there's the problem of the music numbers. For a film that's as short as "She Done Him Wrong" is, they manage to make it too long. When police are chasing a suspect through the theater, the camera pauses and lets the singer finish his song...it breaks the flow.
For a character that's supposed to be as forceful as she is sexy, Lou just seems annoying by the time it's all over. There is nothing redeeming about her.
Yet when all it boils down, the film is kind of a snooze-fest...and that's its biggest problem.
So, when it's all over, "She Done Him Wrong" isn't bad; but it's been done much better many times.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4