Tuesday, April 22, 2008

She done Cary Grant right

Universal, which owns the rights to the Paramount talkies released before 1950, is releasing a box set of comedies from the Universal/Paramount library to DVD today. Three of the movies: Easy Living, Midnight, and The Major and the Minor, are airing on TCM tonight in what is clearly a barter deal: Universal "pays" for the mentions of the box set, and TCM "pays" for the rights to broadcast the movies. It's a relatively rare chance to see these movies, since Universal has generally been remiss about the broadcast rights to their library. There's one movie in the set which TCM isn't airing, however: She Done Him Wrong.

In this 1933 feature, Mae West plays Diamond Lou, a Gay Nineties nightclub singer and manager who has a taste for men, or at least the diamonds they can give her, and uses her raw sexuality to win men to her. (West might not fit today's criteria for sexy, but in the Gay Nineties, and when She Done Him Wrong was released, Mae West would have been considered voluptuous.) Unfortunately, the nightclub is also being used by others who work for her as a cover for a counterfeiting ring. Into all of this walks Capt. Cummings, a Salvation Army officer Cary Grant, who is determined to save Lou's soul, but who also may have other motives. There's a lot of bawdy humor, as befits a pre-Code movie, as well as a secondary plot involving one of Lou's former boyfriends, his escape from prison, and a murder surrounding his escape.

Although the movie would stand just fine on its own as a vehicle for West and her double entendres (such as "A hard man is good to find"), She Done Him Wrong sparkles like Lou's diamonds thanks to the presence of the young Cary Grant in what was really the movie that launched him to becoming a big star. Grant shows the deft comic timing that he would have throughout his career, but is not yet tied down by the stereotypes that would eventually develop around him, leading him to spend the last 15 or so years of his career playing "distinguished", romantic older gentlemen in a series of mostly comedies. Indeed, Grant looks astonishingly young here, and the camera really flatters him (although that may be thanks in part to the stereotype about women finding men in uniform sexy).

1 comment:

Mae West NYC said...

• • The final scene in my play "COURTING MAE WEST" — — based on true events — — is when Mae West is filming this picture in December 1932 with Cary Grant.
• • Come up and see Mae MaeWest.blogspot.com