Mae West in “She Done Him Wrong”


I think most people agree that Mae West’s first starring vehicle She Done Him Wrong (1933) is also her best film. It was based on her 1928 Broadway stage hit Diamond Lil (the reputation of which was so controversial Paramount changed its title even BEFORE the new Production Code.) In 1932, Mae also turned Diamond Lil into a novel:

To distance the film from the play’s scandalous reputation, it was retitled She Done Him Wrong in the film version, and Mae’s character’s name was changed to Lady Lou. It’s directed by stage and screen vet Lowell Sherman. As can be expected there’s a lot of pre-marital or just plain extra-marital sex hinted at, and some of it out and out talked about. It’s set in a Bowery saloon during the 1890s. One of my favorite parts of the film is Mae’s two songs: a hot rendition of the old traditional song “Frankie and Johnny” and an equally sizzling version of the Shelton Brooks song “I Wonder Where My Easy Rider’s Gone”, first popularized by Sophie Tucker.

She Done Him Wrong features Cary Grant in one of his first big roles as a Salvation Army mission worker (who turns out to have some deeper layers). Also in this all star cast of great character actors and show biz veterans are former silent star Owen Moore (Mary Pickford’s first husband), Gilbert Roland, Noah Beery, David Landau, Tammany Young, Fuzzy Knight, Grace La Rue, Louise Beavers, Rafaela Ottiano, Dewey Robinson, Rochelle Hudson, and in walk-ons Tom Kennedy, Arthur Housman, Billy B. Van, Billy Bletcher, Heinie Conklin, Mike Donlin, and Leo White. 


  1. I was surprised that Robert Osborne didn’t introduce the films last evening, as he played a key role in an A&E Mae West documentary filmed in 1993. He was more animated and less wooden back then, and Ben Mankiewicz not only provided interesting and accurate facts about West and production notes, he actually got the true essence of who and what Mae West was really all about.

    The five films listed above that TCM aired were pristine copies, and along with “Myra Breckinridge” and “Sextette” which have been presented before, it would be fantastic if “Night After Night,” “Goin’ To Town,” “Klondike Annie,” “Go West, Young Man,” and “Every Day’s a Holiday,” could be aired at some point.

    Although the Hollywood Production Code that came into effect in 1933 severely clamped down on Mae West’s sexually charged film personna and dialogue, there still remains a lot of fun to be had watching these films. During her Vaudeville and Broadway careers, Mae West performed song and comedic skits , and all of her films except “Night After Night” feature lavish musical music productions.

    Sadly the musical number referred to as “Lure” featuring a “sinsational” costume designed by Walker Plunkett was cut from film censors in the 1943 “The Heat’s On.” Sporting headers featuring a coiled snake and talon like fingernails, one can only imagine the evils censors thought they were protecting the public from. Sadly this excised footage has been lost to time. Fortunately several stills of West’s amazing costume exist.


    • Klondike Annie might be my favorite Mae West picture. It’s one of her best made, but oddly they don’t show it that much


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