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New York singer and nightclub owner Lady Lou has more men friends than you can imagine, unfortunately one of them is a vicious criminal who's escaped and is on the way to see "his" girl, not realizing she hasn't exactly been faithful in his absence. Help is at hand in the form of young Captain Cummings, a local temperance league leader, though. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
Shadow of camera moves against the back wall of Lady Lou's apartment while she and Sally are talking. See more »
[Captain Cummings approaches Lou with a pair of handcuffs]
Those absolutely necessary? You know I wasn't born with them.
No. A lot of men would've been safer if you had.
Oh, I don't know - hands ain't everything.
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Set mostly in a bawdy saloon/dance hall in NYC during the 1890s, this film is a showcase for the talents of Mae West. She plays Lady Lou, a self-confident, sassy singer with a quick wit, who entertains customers with songs that have a Blues theme and were popular in vaudeville.
In this role, buxom Mae West is at her best. She struts her stuff, she wears tons of diamonds, she smiles in a slightly mischievous way, she rolls her eyes, and she speaks in a voice that is more than a little nasal. Her costumes are glamorous and flamboyant. In short, she presents an on-screen image that is wonderfully ... unique.
The film's story is thin and largely irrelevant. It involves the people around Lady Lou, some of whom are schemers and cheats. Implicit sexual references in the dialogue, and the character of Lady Lou, led the "National Legion of Decency" to push down our throats the Production Code, a wretched policy device that censored cinematic content for some thirty years thereafter.
If I have a complaint with this film it is that the story is too serious. Mae West is placed in scenes that allow her merely to recite dialogue. She is less an actress than a singer and on-stage performer. I would have preferred a more lighthearted musical theme, to play up her musical talents.
And so for me, the best parts of this film are the musical numbers few though they may be. Mae West sings "Frankie And Johnny" and a couple of other songs. One of my favorite sequences occurs about midway through the film. In what appears to be an authentically designed music hall set, an Irish tenor with a big mustache sings "Silver Threads Among The Gold", a musical tearjerker popular with barbershop quartets of that era. The song's sad theme prompts a man in the audience literally to "cry in his beer". Gas lights point upward to the stage. And behind the singing tenor, a curtain sways back and forth, with product signs that read "Old Whiskey", "Dijon Burgundy", among others. It's a sequence that is straight out of vaudeville. Marvelous!
"She Done Him Wrong" is a film whose story almost gets in the way of the main character, played by a legendary talent. The film is worth watching more than once, but only to see marvelous Mae West, and to listen to those wonderful songs from the bygone days of vaudeville.
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