AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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She Done Him Wrong
Alternate Title: Lady Lou
Director: Lowell Sherman (Dir)
Release Date:   27 Jan 1933
Production Date:   began 25 Nov 1932
Duration (in mins):   64-66
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   Mae West (Lady Lou)  
    Cary Grant (Captain Cummings)  
    Owen Moore (Chick Clark)  
    Gilbert Roland (Serge Stanieff)  
    Noah Beery Sr. (Gus Jordan)  
    David Landau (Dan Flynn)  
    Rafaela Ottiano (Russian Rita)  
    Dewey Robinson (Spider Kane)  
    Rochelle Hudson (Sally)  
    Tammany Young (Chuck Connors)  
    Fuzzy Knight (Rag Time Kelly)  
    Grace La Rue (Frances)  
    Robert E. Homans (Doheney)  
    Louise Beavers (Pearl)  
    Harry Wallace (Steak McGarry)  
    James C. Eagle (Pete)  
    Tom Kennedy (Big Bill)  
    Arthur Housman (Bar Fly)  
    Wade Boteler (Pal)  
    Aggie Herring (Mrs. Flaherty)  
    Lee Kohlmar (Jacobson)  
    Tom McGuire (Mike)  
    Fred Santley    

Summary: In 1892, in New York's Bowery, singer and femme fatale Lady Lou is mistress to saloon proprietor Gus Jordan, who is running for sheriff, but maintains a counterfeit money racket. Jordan's rival, Dan Flynn, intends to expose Jordan and win the office of sheriff, as well as Lou. When pretty runaway Sally tries to commit suicide in Gus's tavern, Lou comes to her aid, and Gus and his accomplices, Serge Stanieff and Russian Rita, give her a job picking pockets on the Barbary Coast. Later Lou visits her jailed ex-lover, Chick Clark, whom Flynn helped send to prison for stealing diamonds for Lou, and Chick demands that she remain faithful to him. Lou falls for Captain Cummings, the handsome and pious preacher of the mission next door, however, and arranges for his mortgage to be paid. A string of incidents then puts Lou in a tight spot: after Flynn tells her a new detective in town called "The Hawk" is going to expose Gus, Cummings demands to know Sally's whereabouts, but Lou swears she knows nothing of Gus's business. Chick then breaks out of jail and nearly chokes Lou, begging her to run away with him. Next, Serge answers Lou's long-standing invitation to visit her boudoir and, in Rita's presence, confesses his love for her, while giving her a diamond brooch that belongs to Rita. In a jealous rage, Rita attacks Lou with a dagger, and Lou accidentally kills her, then orders her henchman, Spider, to dispose of the body. As Lou performs that night, Chick comes to pick her up and hides in her room, while Lou gives Flynn a signal from the stage to meet her there as well. Chick shoots Flynn dead just as Cummings, who is really The Hawk, raids the saloon, arresting Serge, Gus, Spider and Chick. Cummings then escorts Lou, who insists on wearing her wrap, to the police wagon, but lifts her into a coach instead. There, he removes her diamond rings and replaces them with one of his own, telling her, "I'm gonna be your jailer for a long, long time." 

Production Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Productions, Inc.  
Director: Lowell Sherman (Dir)
  James Dugan (Asst dir)
Producer: William LeBaron (Assoc prod)
Writer: Mae West ([Wrt] by)
  Harvey Thew (Scr)
  John Bright (Scr)
Photography: Charles Lang (Photog)
  Robert Pittack (Cam op)
  Clifford Shirpser (Asst cam)
Art Direction: Robert Usher (Art dir)
Film Editor: Alexander Hall (Film ed)
Costumes: Edith Head (Cost)
Sound: Harry M. Lindgren (Rec eng)
Production Misc: Fred Datig (Casting dir)
  Elwood Bredell (Still photog)
  Robert M. Gillham (General press agent)
Country: United States

Songs: "I Wonder Where My Easy Rider's Gone" and "A Guy What Takes His Time," words and music by Ralph Rainger; "The Old Grey Mare," music by Frank Panella; "Daisy Bell," words and music by Harry Dacre; "Pop Goes the Weasel," music (traditional), lyrics by Charles Sloman; "After the Ball," words and music by Charles K. Harris; "Frankie and Johnnie," traditional.
Composer: Harry Dacre
  Charles K. Harris
  Frank Panella
  Ralph Rainger
  Charles Sloman
Source Text: Based on the play Diamond Lil by Mae West (New York, 9 Apr 1928).
Authors: Mae West

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Productions, Inc. 27/1/1933 dd/mm/yyyy LP3611 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Noiseless Recording

 
Genre: Comedy-drama
  Comedy-drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
  with songs
 
Subjects (Major): Counterfeiters and counterfeiting
  New York City--Bowery
  Romantic rivalry
  Secret agents
  Temptresses
  United States--History--Reconstruction, 1865-1898
 
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  Attempted suicide
  Diamonds
  Gold diggers
  Impersonation and imposture
  Jealousy
  Missions
  Mistresses
  Moral corruption
  Pickpockets
  Police raids
  Political candidates
  Political corruption
  Prison escapes
  Proposals (Marital)
  Saloon keepers
  Singers

Note: Working titles for this film include Honky Tonk , Ruby Red and Lady Lou . An onscreen foreword reads: "The Gay Nineties...When they did such things and they said such things on the Bowery. A lusty, brawling, florid decade when there were handlebars on lip and wheel--and legs were confidential." This film marks West's first starring screen role and followed Night After Night (see above), which starred George Raft but for which West received much attention. According to the Paramount Script Collection at the AMPAS Library, Marian Marsh was originally set to play the role of Sally. Several reviews list Rafaela Ottiano's character as "Russian Rosie," which was her name in early scripts; the release dialogue script dated 17 Jan 1933 lists Ottiano as "Russian Rita," which was her name in the viewed print.
       According to files in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in Jan 1930, Universal Pictures was considering purchasing West's play, Diamond Lil , and possibly employing West as a member of Universal's writing staff. According to a letter dated 11 Jan 1930, Colonel Jason S. Joy, Director of the Studio Relations Office of the AMPP, discouraged Universal against hiring West. The play went through "formula," i.e., was scrutinized according to the Production Code, on 22 Apr 1930, when Paramount was considering adapting it for the screen. On 19 Oct 1932, Will H. Hays, head of MPPDA, wrote to Paramount President Adolph Zukor, stating that Diamond Lady and Diamonds , the suggested film titles, had both been rejected because "changing the title [of the play] is not enough." A note in the Code files dated 9 Nov 1932 states that the play had been banned. On 21 Nov 1932, Emanuel Cohen, Paramount Vice-president in Charge of Production, met with Governor Carl E. Milliken, Secretary of the MPPDA, for a "formula" meeting; Milliken warned Cohen that West's story could not be filmed at all unless it were approved by the Board of Directors of the MPPDA in New York.
       The film began shooting under the title Ruby Red on 25 Nov 1932. After Hays threatened to stop shooting if the film was not cleared by the board in New York, the story was finally accepted on 28 Nov 1932, with the condition that it not be associated with the play in publicity or ads, and conformed to the Code. (The NYT review, however, states that in the film, West gave "a remarkably suspicious impersonation of Diamond Lil. In fact, 'She Done Him Wrong,' with a few discreet cuts and alterations, is the same 'Diamond Lil' without which no bibliography of Miss West's literary works would be complete.") By 6 Dec 1932, the title was changed to She Done Him Wrong . Following a meeting with producer William LeBaron and the Hays Office, the studio was forced to change the racket of Russian Rosie from white-slavery to counterfeiting, with the admonition that the filmmakers remove the film "as far as possible from any feeling of sordid realism," and reduce the number of men Rose has "had." (The NYT review, however, states that Sally is sold into white slavery, and an unidentified contemporary source states that white slavery is "lurking" in the film.)
       The film was previewed by Dr. James Wingate, who replaced Joy, on 9 Jan 1933. On 11 Jan 1933, Wingate wrote to Harold Hurley, assistant to Cohen, stating that the film's "Code matters" would be cleared if the studio re-instated a line spoken by Lou to Gus: "I hope you ain't been sending them girls to the coast to become classy dips [pickpockets] and burglars like Flynn thinks," in order to remove any connotation of white-slavery. On 13 Jan 1933, after receiving a suggested new ending from Paramount, Wingate wrote to Hurley, adding a line [in italics] to Cummings' speech at the end of the film: "You're still my prisoner and as soon as you are clear with the law I'm going to be your jailer." [The added line was not in the print viewed.] Wingate also warned Hurley to be careful in his handling of West's line after she has been handcuffed, "hands ain't everything." On the same day, Wingate sent his reaction of the preview to Hays, stating that the film contained "ribald comedy" with "at least feeble elements of regeneration which could be argued in its defense." Adding that the picture was "toned down" from the play, Wingate says West "gives a performance of strong realism."
       In a memo to Wingate on 3 Feb 1933, MPPDA official Vincent G. Hart offered "severe criticism" of the song "Slow Motion Man" (also called "A Guy What Takes His Time"), warning Wingate to analyze the song's lyrics before the film's opening the following week. On 27 Feb 1933, Hays reported to Wingate that he had ordered all exchanges in the United States and Canada to cut 100 feet of reel six, including all but one opening and closing verse of "Slow Motion Man," the scenes of the female pickpocket, and the pianist "ogling" a singer. Following the film's release, Sidney Kent, President of Fox Film Corp., wrote a letter of protest to Hays, stating: "I believe [ She Done Him Wrong ] is worse than Red Headed Woman [see entry above] from the standpoint of the industry....I cannot understand how your people on the Coast could let this get by. There is very little that any of us can do now." Several local censor boards eliminated the line: "When women go wrong, men go right after them" and "Hands ain't everything."
       The film received an Academy Award nomination in the Outstanding Production category. The 1934 FDYB lists it as "One of the Ten Best Pictures of 1933 , and the NYT on 11 Mar 1934 noted it as one of the best films of 1933, calling West's films "the life-blood of the industry." On 30 Sep 1934, the NYT asserted, "to be convinced that she is a breeder of licentiousness and an exponent of pornography is to be unusually blind to her precise qualities as an actress." In Aug 1933, the MPPDA itself had defended She Done Him Wrong to The Inquirer of Philadelphia. In a personal letter dated 2 Aug 1933, Kirk L. Russell, an MPPDA official, asked the Inquirer to consider the "millions of small town people" who made possible the 6,000 "repeats" of this film...the greatest record of repeats since The Birth of a Nation ." Alluding to an article by Len G. Shaw published in the Detroit Free Press , Russell asserts, "women sinners have held their place in the spotlight in all ages," which, in Shaw's words, is "an explanation rather than an apology for the presence on the screen of so many bad girls." The NYHT reported on 5 Sep 1935 that West's novel version of Diamond Lil had been banned by the Customs Dept. in Melbourne, Australia, for alleged "indecent and obscene passages." On 30 Sep 1935, after reviewing the film, the PCA refused Paramount's request for a re-issue Code seal. In a letter dated 30 Sep 1935 from Joseph I. Breen, Director of the PCA, to John Hammell, Paramount distribution executive, Breen states, "I am sending this to suggest, under the general head of good and welfare, that you withdraw your application for the certification of this picture...[it] is so thoroughly and completely in violation of the Code that we cannot, in conscience, approve it." On 7 Oct 1935, Breen wrote to Hays that, in the likelihood of an appeal by Paramount, "It would be a tragedy if these pictures [ She Done Him Wrong and the West film I'm No Angel (see entry above)] were permitted to be exhibited at the present time. I am certain that such exhibitions would seriously throw into question much of the good work which has been done and stir up enormous protests." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   5 Dec 32   p. 6.
Film Daily   10 Feb 33   p. 7.
HF   21 Jan 33   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Oct 32   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Nov 32   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Nov 32   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Dec 32   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Jan 33   p. 3.
International Photographer   Feb 33   p. 29.
Motion Picture Herald   18 Feb 33   p. 31.
New York Herald Tribune   10 Feb 1933.   
New York Herald Tribune   5 Sep 1935.   
New York Times   10 Feb 33   p. 12.
New York Times   11 Mar 1934.   
New York Times   30 Sep 1934.   
Variety   14 Feb 33   p. 12.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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