Lady Lou (Mae West) is a lady more than willing to go after any man who can keep her in diamonds. Her current man is Gus (Noah Beery), a saloon owner and candidate for Sheriff. Lou thinks he buys her diamonds from the money he makes at the saloon, but in reality, he’s involved in counterfeiting, prostitution, and pickpocketing. Meanwhile, Dan Flynn is also running for Sheriff and wants to expose Gus for the crook he is, be elected Sheriff, and while he’s at it, get Lou all to himself. But Gus isn’t the only man to turn to crime to get diamonds for Lou. Her ex-boyfriend Chick Clark is doing time in prison for stealing diamonds for Lou, and when she goes to see him, he demands that she be faithful to him while he’s serving his time. Of course, she has no intention of this.
Not only does she have Gus and Dan after her, there’s also Captain Cummings (Cary Grant), who runs the Mission next door to the saloon. Even if she wouldn’t be getting many diamonds from him, Lou is still very attracted to him. When she hears the Mission will have to leave because they can’t pay the mortgage, she arranges for it to be paid just to keep him around. Dan Flynn tips Lou off to a detective called The Hawk who’s planning to raid the club and send Gus to prison, and her along with him if she doesn’t wise up.
Meanwhile, Chick has decided that he can’t bear to be away from Lou any longer and manages to escape. He shows up at the saloon and wants her to run away with him, but she convinces him that she’s just going to finish performing at the saloon and then she’ll join him. Of course she has no intention of joining him, but she sends her bodyguard to bring Chick back up to her room. While she’s performing, she signals Dan to go up to her room as well. Chick shoots Dan and the next thing Lou knows, the police are raiding the joint. She also finds out the infamous Hawk is none other than Captain Cummings, who had been doing undercover work in the saloon. Cummings takes Lou away with the rest of the cast of characters, but she doesn’t go to jail. He intends to keep her for himself.
There’s no way I could do a month of pre-code movies and not feature a Mae West movie. Like Jean Harlow, Mae West’s persona and image were tailor-made for the pre-code era. She was a gold digger, a mantrap, and was the queen of the double entendre. She Done Him Wrong is Mae West at her finest: bawdy, charismatic, and covered in diamonds.
This is another of Cary Grant’s early movies. Even though Mae West loved to take credit for discovering Cary Grant, he’d made movies like Blonde Venus and Hot Saturday before She Done Him Wrong. It’s kind of hard to judge She Done Him Wrong as anything other than a vehicle for Mae West because that’s exactly what it was meant to be. Everything that happens was meant just to set up a witty line or a saucy comeback from Mae. Even though it’s great fun and it’s fantastic to see Mae West doing what she does best, I don’t think this really deserved to be a Best Picture nominee. There were better movies to come out in 1933, but it’s still very enjoyable.