She Done Him Wrong is one of Cary Grant’s first memorable films and one of Mae West’s most famous. Despite premiering over 90 years ago, its story is still entertaining for the modern audience.
One of the most surprising things about this pre-Hays Code film is its run-time: barely over an hour. Most television shows today would be longer than it is. Yet, it tells a coherent story that engages the audience and holds them the whole time.
The Power of Mae West
One of the reasons She Done Him Wrong works so well despite how short it is is because of Mae West’s performance. West was the it girl of her time. Her stunning looks and sultry voice entranced men throughout America. She Done Him Wrong is by far one of her best performances where she utilizes these charms.
Not only is West beautiful, but she’s also confident and funny. Every time she’s on screen, any man in her vicinity is enrapt by her and only her. Her one-liners and daring punches endear her to the audience.
Sex and Crime
The Hays Code would not be implemented until the following year, so She Done Him Wrong didn’t have to shy away from the subjects that would entertain audiences the most. While not as forthright with these subjects as a modern film may be, the coy references and daring confidence to discuss them are tantalizing.
Mae West is practically oozing pheromones every time she’s on screen. She openly discusses her dirty money dealings, leaving no room for interpretation from the audience. We know she’s a sexy temptress who is heavily involved in the underground criminal world of her city.
No Subject Too Taboo
Sex and crime are obviously some of the main themes of She Done Him Wrong, but it doesn’t shirk from other tough subjects either. At one point, a minor character tries to end her life and it’s not glossed over in any way. In fact, it’s mentioned that several people have tried the same thing in the club where Mae West’s character works.
West’s character is also known to be a hopeless flirt. When she visits her “boyfriend” in jail, she straight up lies and says she’s been faithful to him. The audience, who has seen her cat around with every man available, knows this to be a lie. However, because we have grown to love West, we find ourselves ignoring this transgression and even encouraging it. She Done Him Wrong turns traditional morals on its head and makes its audience do so as well.
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