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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933)

The surprise in Mae West’s second film appearance (her first starring vehicle) is the load of melodrama squeezed between the infamous sexually suggestive quips & her signature honky-tonk vocals in just 67 minutes. We’re talkin’ white slave traffic, counterfeiting, prison break, police investigation, even Cary Grant as a handsome missionary for Mae to vamp. Each merely one more dramatic highlight for West to react to. And what reactions! She’s a changed gal from last year’s debut in NIGHT AFTER NIGHT/’32, with her stylized look firmly in place and the film’s tempo adjusted to match her swaying walking rhythm. A fairly elaborate period production (Paramount was placing a very big bet on her), it’s beautifully lit by lenser Charles Lang (those footlight-accented stage numbers), but limps a bit under the bumpy laissez-faire hand of actor-turned-director Lowell Sherman. Shot-by-shot, he makes some nice moves, but he can’t be bothered with transitions. An editor’s nightmare. West would soon adjust the comedy/drama/music mix, but tighter censorship and the fast growing disparity between her self-image vis-à-vis what the camera caught made her comet-like rise-and-fall one of the quickest in Hollywood cultural-icon history.

DOUBLE-BILL: Mae falls for Cary's missionary next door and doesn’t stop by for a visit? Talk about your missed opportunities! She must have thought about it too and hides out as a Salvation Army lass for part of KLONDIKE ANNIE/’36.

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