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Thursday, January 02, 2020

Such Fools As Bought Tickets ...


Bogart Bolsters a "B" --- Men Are Such Fools

Among Warners' declarative titles --- there had been Women Are Like That not long before, and maybe enterprising exhibitors played them together. As things work about, the fools are evenly represented by men and women. Big lunkhead Wayne Morris thinks Priscilla Lane should stay home and be a good wife rather than burn up Madison Avenue with eager ad exec Humphrey Bogart. I'd have preferred her choosing Bogie, but marriage ties under the Code being inviolate, we know status quo will be maintained, however depressing the outcome. Did movies like this keep people chained to rotten home lives? The yarn was based on Faith Baldwin, her stuff generally good for melodrama poured easy (Beauty For Sale, Wife vs. Secretary), but not previously played for so much comedy as here.




Honest treatment of issues was out of the question anyway, what with a baleful PCA. Wed women were often offered better propositions, but wait, it was men generally writing these things, few eager to empower the sex they wanted to remain fair, and compliant (check Loretta Young and Weekend Marriage). Men Are Such Fools was a "B" (negative cost: $348K) produced by David Lewis, who was starting out on WB staff, and directed by Busby Berkeley, whose ritual humbling this was. Lewis later told interviewing James Curtis that lead lady Priscilla Lane was "just a cutie-pie and not a good actress." He also spoke of struggle toward a usable script; we could wonder at what horror he started out with.




Men's main object was to consolidate stardom of Wayne Morris, featured the previous season in Kid Galahad and called swoon-worthy by fan mags. Columnist Jimmy Fidler tagged him "outstanding star discovery of the year," but that wouldn't get WB's job done so long as they bungled Morris via parts ham-fisted and unsympathetic as Men Are Such Fools. Gold, however, is where you find it, and there are nuggets here to ease pain of 69 minutes. Bogart is an obvious best reason to watch, reprising Broadway juveniles his lot pre-Hollywood. Athletic as well, it's pleases when HB does a graceful and headlong dive into a swimming pool with Priscilla Lane, less so where he's served a knuckle sandwich by Wayne Morris. I hadn't mentioned Hugh Herbert. In fact, let's not. Men Are Such Fools lost $180K for Warners in 1938, partly due to microscopic foreign rentals (85K). Guess there were bigger fish to fry beyond borders that year.

9 Comments:

Blogger stinky fitzwizzle said...

Priscilla is definitely a cutie-pie!

10:30 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

"I hadn't mentioned Hugh Herbert."

Well put. For me just about everything he is in would be better if he were out.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Ruegger said...

As I've said before, Priscilla Lane's mistreatment of Jimmy Cagney in "The Roaring Twenties" makes her unwatchable for me. Can't stand her. That she is a bad actress helps to justify my boycott.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

No movie with Hugh Herbert getting billed over Bogart is worth watching.
As for Lane in "Roaring Twenties" -- she just strikes me as a teenager who can't figure out what she wants. Nothing malicious going on. (I just watched it this morning, and think it ought to be considered a classic. Great cast, great script & direction, the big budget is on the screen throughout. Definitely something to return to in the future.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Ha-Ha, Tom Ruegger! Well, in Priscilla's defense Jimmy's pretty damn clueless in THE ROARING TWENTIES, and his own treatment of Gladys George is fairly egregious. But I hear ya!

BTW I'm looking at those photos of Ms. Lane... am I the only one who sees the teeniest resemblance with Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's Rachel Brosnahan?

6:33 PM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

Priscilla is a cutie in my book and very good in SABOTEUR.

7:01 AM  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

Pricilla Lane's more than okay in my book. She and Dick Powell are both terrific in 1938's "Cowboy from Brooklyn", Warner Brothers' last topnotch musical of the 30's.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Marc J. Hampton said...

I'm not sure any of the Lane sisters were exactly Helen Mirren when it came to dramatic performances...but thats ok...there is always a place for pretty actors and actresses in the movies, who don't really need to do much more than show up and look lovely.

Mike...as for "Saboteur"...I can't help but just wonder what that movie would have been like with Barbara Stanwyck in the role.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Neely OHara said...

Kevin K: No movie with Hugh Herbert getting billed over Bogart is worth watching.

I agree with you in theory, but recently watched Big City Blues on TCM (in which HH is billed above HB) and found it surprisingly good, and HH reasonably entertaining — of course Blondell was a far better actress than Lane, which helped.

3:41 PM  

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