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Good News or Bad? Time Will Tell
on January 18, 2008
I greet the release of She Done Him Wrong on DVD with mixed emotions.
First, my review of the film - She Done Him Wrong was Mae West's personal favorite among her 12 movies, and 75 years after its release, it is still considered a classic by most critics and many fans. The film is often credited with saving Paramount Studios from bankruptcy, and made Mae West the box-office sensation of 1933. Thanks to this film, the phrase, "Come up and see me sometime" entered the language and immortalized a woman now long-revered for her comic timing and salty double-entendres (although her most famous phrase was something of a misquote; her actual line to Cary Grant was, "Why don't `cha come up sometime, see me? Don't be afraid, I won't tell. Come up, I'll tell your fortune. Ooohh, you can be had!"). Based on her notorious Broadway smash Diamond Lil, Miss West was forced to change the lead character's name (if not the basic plot) to appease the censors, and Diamond Lil became Lady Lou, "One of the finest women ever walked the streets". Peppered with hilarious bons mots such as, "When women go wrong, men go right after them", the script, which she wrote herself, contains more wit in each scene than some modern so-called comedies have in a whole movie. For a film that runs a mere 62 minutes, it's packed with fun, drama, wonderful period atmosphere and great performances from an ensemble cast, many of whom appeared in the stage version. Mae's sultry singing of the song, "A Guy What Takes His Time" was so suggestive that the censors removed all but one verse of it from her filmed rendition, although she managed somehow to simultaneously release it on a 78 record that contained verse after verse of uncensored, ribald, raw sexuality.
While I am thrilled to finally have this movie available on DVD, it dashes my hopes that some of Mae West's more obscure films will ever find a digital release.
Universal Studios (who owns the rights to all Paramount titles) previously released on individual DVD's only three Mae West classic titles: I'm No Angel (1933), Belle of the Nineties (1934), and Klondike Annie (1937). Each of these early DVD releases has been long out of print. Early in 2005, My Little Chickadee (1940) was released as part of the W. C. Fields collection, and later that year, Universal released five titles in the "Mae West Glamour Collection", Night After Night (1932), Go West, Young Man (1935), Goin' To Town (1936) and the previously mentioned I'm No Angel and My Little Chickadee. I was hoping that a "Mae West Glamour Collection, Volume Two" would eventually contain the out-of-print Belle of the Nineties and Klondike Annie, along with She Done Him Wrong, and her remaining two classic films, Every Day's A Holiday (1937) and the rarely seen, The Heat's On (1943), both of which have never been on DVD at all. Curiously enough, the UK version of the Mae West Classic Collection included The Heat's On, although it was originally released by Columbia; I guess this means that Universal does have the rights. BUT, the release of She Done Him Wrong as a single DVD has now dashed my hopes that the other classic titles will ever be released. This is a pity. Some critics - and I concur - consider Klondike Annie (more of a drama than a comedy) to be Mae's finest effort, and Every Day's A Holiday is one of her more hilarious outings on celluloid.
I am hoping against hope that this release signals the forthcoming issue of the few of Mae West's classics that have not been seen in a digital format, but only time will tell.