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She Done Him Wrong (1933)


ThelmaTodd
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(It's not me the title refers to!) In memory of this extraordinary woman, superstar and entertainer, let me remind all that this film is due for belated DVD release on April 22, 2008. This completes the release of her classic period films on video. I wish all of her Paramount production could been put out in a nice boxed set; she has the stature and importance to merit it. Maybe someday.

 

The year 1933 was a most extraordinary one for American film, and Mae West was at the forefront of it. We talked much lately of "pre-code" films, and she was the main impetus behind the code being brought about. It's not that she revealed a lot of flesh in her films (on the contrary); what bugged the hell out of the prudes was what came out of her mouth! Her attitude was a great annoyance to many. She sent a seismic shock wave through the culture and mentality of this nation that still reverberates to this day. I think her cult was part of the seed that culminated in the Womens Lib movement a generation later.

 

In my hometown of Chicago, the Catholic Cardinal Mundelein felt that Miss West and her insouciance were just the last straw! He helped launch the Catholic Legion of Decency, a film censorship group that told Catholics which films were OK, and which risked sending the soul to hell. Mundelein ordered his priests to picket outside Chicago theaters that were featuring Mae West films, carrying signs to the effect that watching a Mae West film is a mortal sin. His Eminence apparently never heard of the Law of Unintended Consequences, as the picketing priests were a priceless PR bonanza that helped rather than hindered attendance. What a farce!

 

Thelma

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Hi Thelma,

 

Well I'm glad they got around to releasing this one. I think it's her best but I haven't seen them all. Mae made sex seem like a lot of fun for a woman back in the early thirties. She was unfortunately one of the main victims of the code crackdown.

 

I need to get that Glamour collection. I have never seen *Night after Night.* It's my understanding that after *I'm No Angel* the code was brought to bear on her next film *Belle of the Ninties.* I haven't seen that one since I was a kid watching it on the late show. I'm hoping that it is a little edgier than her subsequent 30's output but I don't remember it too well. Have you seen this dvd? It's a little harder to find than the others. I hope it's a good print.

 

It's said that her films helped put Paramount back in the black during the depression. *She Done Him Wrong* and *I'm No Angel* are good crowd pleasers when introducing pre-codes to people. I did however have one person not get the joke. She couldn't understand why this round, older woman was thought to be so sexy and beautiful by every man in her films. (Sigh...Well, Mae wrote it that way) She certainly made a believer out of me.I always get a smile when reading a list of her best lines. She was a truly great original artist.

 

I also see that the dvd of *She Done Him Wrong* has a Robert Osborne introduction and the cartoon *She Done Him Right*

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Thanks for your fine post molo14! You raise a number of points that I would like to answer or respond to, for you and for the benefit of others reading here.

 

The "Glamour Collection" is part of a DVD release series that includes multiple films of big female stars from the classic era. The DVD's are two sided; not a favorite arrangement with me. (They have to be flipped over, even if you own a multiple disc player.) A star of West's stature and magnitude deserves better DVD treatment, like a boxed set with each film on it's own disc, with extras. Much lesser talents have received this kind of posh treatment by video producers.

 

Night After Night (1932), her first film appearance, shows her in a supporting, rather than a leading role. It's really like a 90 minute long "screen test"; perhaps Paramount was not sure of her star potential just yet. She does look a bit younger and thinner in this flick.

 

Is Belle of the Nineties edgy? Not as much as her last two films prior to it, but the attitude and humor were in good form. Mae West, as well as America in general, felt a nostalgia for the 1890's at that time. West liked dressing up 1890's style, and showing off a hourglassed and buxom figure, such as was the fashion in the 90's.

 

The last of the "primary" Mae West films was "Going To Town" (1935). After that, she became a caricature of herself. She wasn't getting any younger, and the code did not allow her to use her humor to the max.

 

Now let's talk about your girlfriend.

 

Her reaction can be explained by perhaps one or more of three things: A) not knowing that the cult of slimness is a relatively new social obsession, that came in within the last few decades, B) feminine jealousy, C) discomfort or disapproval with another woman showing strong sexual self confidence and having multiple lovers.

 

About B, feminine jealousy. Women can be very competitive and insecure about their looks and figures. This insecurity is projected onto other women in a number of ways; criticism of another gal's figure or looks as well as being flabbergasted when men dare to find a woman attractive, who doesn't meet their own beauty criteria! Jealousy also automatically kicks in when more than one man shows an interest in a certain woman. Women will always find something to fault in another woman's appearance, no matter what. Even if West were 20 years old and weighed 110 pounds, it would then be something else. Either her hair, or makeup or dress would be deficient. Etcetera.

 

About point C. Mae West struck that vicious third rail of American life, all flowing with 600 volts of electricity: SEX. Many women are repressed or dysfunctional in this area, for a number of reasons; abuse, socialization, upbringing or religious hangups. The idea of a woman enjoying and having fun with men, the way men have fun with women, was inflammatory and controversial then and even now. A significant percentage of our female population will never be "down" with this. Be aware (and possibly warned!).

 

I'm not generalizing about your girlfriend, because I don't know her. It's up to you to figure out what's going on with her. I hope we can still be friends after me having said all this.

 

Mae West is as radical today, as she was back then!

 

with best wishes and regards,

 

Thelma

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I love Mae in She Done Him Wrong. I'm also a big fan of Rafaela Ottiano and particularly enjoy her as Russian Rita. I wish two of my favorite Mae West films were available on DVD -- Klondike Annie and Every Day's a Holiday. They have some of her best moments. Klondike Annie: the opening song and following boudoir exchange between Mae and Harold Huber (as Chan Lo): Huber: "It is said that there are only two good men, one dead, the other unborn." Mae: "Oh, yeah, which one are you?"; Klondike Annie also features one of Mae's best lines: "Fah Wong, turn back the bed sheets. I'm headed for the arms of Morpheus;" the revival meeting, etc.

 

Every Day's a Holiday highlights: New Year's Eve celebrations, 1899/1900; selling the Brooklyn Bridge to Herman Bing; disguising herself as Mlle. Fifi, and singing the song that Carmen Miranda would sing in a later film; the election campaign; and her priceless exchange with crooked pol Lloyd Nolan, who, when he recognizes her under the dark wig, says: "So, Mlle. Fifi is Peaches O'Day."

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Hi Thelma,

 

Interesting comments.

 

 

The idea of a woman enjoying and having fun with men, the way men have fun with women, was inflammatory and controversial then and even now

 

I agree with this and the more rigid enforcement of the code really squashed this idea out of films.

 

The last of the "primary" Mae West films was "Going To Town" (1935). After that, she became a caricature of herself.

 

Thanks, that's good info to have.

 

Now let's talk about your girlfriend.

 

 

I wasn't put off by your comments at all but I think you misunderstood about the person who made those comments about Mae. She was just someone in our little movie group at work. I don't know her socially.

 

Molo

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I appreciate your response molo14. I went into the business about your friend, because it is a timeless generic feminine response; thus I felt it helpful for others to read. West is very polarizing to women; they will either love her or hate her.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention her other massive transgression. She as a 40 year old was falling for a guy in his early twenties, both on and off camera (Cary Grant). Women still have a big blockage about this, whereas Mae did not. In her 70'a and 80's, she was reported to have young muscle men hanging around her pool and house. She a is also reported to have known just what to do with them!

 

Swithin! You sound like quite a fan, a fan with a really good memory for detail! The Huber quote you mention: "...there are only two good men, one dead, the other unborn.:" sounds a lot like contemporary feminism, but for the record, was NOT Mae's real life attitude! In her autobiography, "Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It", she proudly confessed to feeling some kind of attraction for every man she ever saw! She was a "posi-feminist", not a "feminazi"!

 

 

I am glad to see TCM plugging the video release. Let's all reconvene when the DVD is out, and talk about the film!

 

Thelma

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