Tuesday 1 April 2008

Men are Such Fools (1938)

Priscilla Lane, one of the delightful Lane sisters, is a young secretary in the advertising business, working for Hugh Herbert, of all people. He's Harvey Bates who doesn't have much of a clue and she's Linda Lawrence who has plenty. She's got great plans to move up in the business, but this is 1938 so that doesn't work out too well and she ends up getting married to Jimmy Hall who spends the first half of the film pestering the crap out of her and any time a couple get on each other's nerves this much they're obviously destined to be more than just a couple. He's Wayne Morris and he's the leading man over someone a little bit better known today.

Third on the bill is a regular supporting actor trying to find his niche, and playing supporting roles in thirties comedies was one of the things he had to do to to get there. He's a minor little name called Humphrey Bogart who wouldn't remain a minor little name for long, though it wouldn't be roles like this that made the difference. He's far more comfortable as a confident and flirtatious advertising executive than he was a year earlier in the hillbilly musical wrestling comedy Swing Your Lady or a year later as a cross between Dr Strangelove and the Bride of Frankenstein in The Return of Doctor X.

The real peach of a supporting character is the one who's played by Mona Barrie though Hugh Herbert is fun too. She's memorably and delightfully acerbic and every word is a joy to hear. She's also surprisingly effective given that it's pretty obvious that she would have been a lot more if only this had been a precode. I've been watching so many of them lately that it actually seemed strange to see a newlywed couple in a black and white movie wake up in separate beds and the whole second half of the film seems all the more ludicrous when compared to what it would have been five years earlier. The hypocrisy and the sexism of it all is pretty painful and the ending worse.

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