“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, author
She Done Him Wrong is 1 hour and 6 minutes long, but don’t let its size fool you. The story is not particularly LOL-inducing only because our brains are so in awe of Mae West’s cheekiness that they forget to tell our mouths to laugh.
Here’s what you need to know: When Lady Lou (Mae West) finds out that her circle of friends is involved in criminal activity and will likely bring her down with them, the man who runs the city mission next door (baby-faced Cary Grant) comes to the rescue.
If I believed in reincarnation, it would be clear that Mae West died and was reincarnated as Amy Schumer. In case that name doesn’t ring a bell, Schumer has quickly become a trendsetting woman in comedy over the last couple of years. Her raunchy 2015 brainchild Trainwreck, which was produced by Judd Apatow, grossed over $14o million worldwide and propelled a wildly successful standup comedy year for Amy. I remember driving past this billboard many times:
This billboard is not trying to say Amy is a man. Those eyes are saying, “I am every bit as capable as anyone who’s taken the comedy spotlight before me. Come at me, bro.” Her confidence is a key component of her successful routines and the success of Amy Schumer as a person. In an era where we witnessed the first woman presidential candidate run for office, it is encouraging to watch women excel boldly in many different fields.
Now, back to Mae West. Women were gaining ground after earning the right to vote in 1920, but the show was still run by men. This was reflected in pretty much every aspect of life at that time, including politics, business, and yes, entertainment. Why should a female actress contend with established comedy stars like Charlie Chaplin? Mae West instigated a trainwreck of her own—a good kind of trainwreck—by barging in on Hollywood and shocking audiences with her chops. Mae’s wit in She Done Him Wrong is only the tip of the iceberg of what she was capable of; for example, one time she was arrested for performing a play she wrote called Sex. (According to Wikipedia, the NYC police barged in on the production despite the fact that it had already been performed 375 times in front of at least 325,000 people.) If Mae and Amy are not the same person, they are certainly kindred spirits.
The only thing I’m still try to figure out regarding this movie is its title…how has Lady Lou done him wrong, and who is that even talking about? She got out of an unhealthy relationship, broke ties with criminals, and found love in an unlikely place. Sounds pretty good to me. Maybe a more fitting title would be, She Done Herself Right.
Amy Schumer, there’s your next movie title. I expect full credit. Thank you.