Men are Such Fools – 1938

Men are Such Fools Poster

My Review

—Good Charisma, TERRIBLE Script—

Bogie Film Fix:

.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director: Busby Berkeley

The Lowdown

Jimmy Hall (Wayne Morris) grows jealous when his girlfriend Linda (Priscilla Lane) starts advancing in her advertising career and becomes the object of attention for several of the men that she works with.

What I Thought

My brother occasionally helps me out with this blog, giving me access to his satellite dish for TCM when I need to watch a film that’s not available on DVD. He watched Men are Such Fools before I did and his review was, “It’s horrible!”

How bad could it be? I thought, It’s got Wayne Morris, Priscilla Lane, Penny Singleton, Bogart, and was directed by Busby Berkeley! I just figured that my brother wasn’t as cultured with the classics as I am. Maybe he’s just not as good at identifying the wonderful qualities in the older, more obscure, films.

Turns out he was dead on. It’s pretty bad.

Don’t get me wrong, all of the actors come off as well as they can. Wayne Morris is incredibly charming. Priscilla Lane is gorgeous and witty. Bogart is playing a slightly more redeemed version of the con man that he played in some of his earlier films. It’s just the script that stinks here. It’s horrible. Truly, terribly, bad and horrible.

What’s missing? Motivation. Any motivation whatsoever is nowhere to be found for any of the characters.

Wayne Morris is in love with Priscilla Lane. She wants none of it. Suddenly she falls desperately in love with him after he’s been nothing but a nagging pest. What changed? Nothing. For the plot to advance their love needed to happen, so it does.

Lane goes from secretary to ad exec wunderkind! How? She has one good idea about an ad campaign. Before the campaign even fully comes to fruition, everyone in town knows her name and she’s appearing in the newspaper as an advertising genius. How does everyone hear about her and come to such an esteemed opinion of her talents? It’s not really explained, but for Morris to get jealous of the time she spends with other men, it needed to happen so it just does.

Lane’s boss (Hugh Herbert) is all grabby and creepy-old-manish towards her, obviously interested in something besides her talent. What turns him from a sexual predator into a friend? Uh, I guess Wayne Morris shows up and then Herbert just decides to turn over a new leaf when he sees how much Morris loves her?

Then there’s the fact that Lane seems to find it perfectly acceptable to flirt and lead men on to get ahead in her career – making Morris wait on the sideline while she makes time with Bogart’s radio exec, Harry Galleon. Sure, go ahead Director Berkeley, lose any sympathy for Lane that we might have as we actually feel kind of bad for Morris even though we’re apparently supposed to be in awe of Lane’s female empowerment.

Ugh. If there had been any sort of baseline believable plot for this one, just a hint of promise in the screenplay, this could have been a quaint little romantic comedy. Instead, lots of wonderful talent is wasted on a herky-jerky plot and poor character development. I feel bad being this hard on a film, but I’d probably sit through Isle of Fury again twice before going back to this one.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart’s here with a decent amount of screen time as radio man Harry Galleon. What can I say though? He does his best with what little he has. There’s a slightly promising side story with Bogart’s second love interest, Marcia Ralston, and how Director Berkeley handles the subtleties of a long term relationship on the rocks, but other than that, there’s no real meat to Bogart’s character.

He looks good, I guess. We get to see him in an old school men’s two-piece bathing suit . . .

The Cast

Wayne Morris plays Jimmy Hall, the loving and supportive man behind Priscilla Lane’s successful woman. It kills me that out of all the collaborations Morris had with Bogart, he shows the most onscreen charisma here, but he has nothing to do with it other than to stand around and look good. If nothing else, he does get a few chances to play brooding and jealous alongside of Lane and Bogart.

Priscilla Lane plays Linda Lawrence, the young secretary turned advertising genius. It was great to see Lane again after enjoying her so much alongside James Cagney in The Roaring Twenties. She’s pretty, upbeat, and comes off well onscreen, but again, like everyone else here, her character is flimsy, often unlikable, and makes numerous unmotivated decisions. If nothing else, this film makes me want to go rewatch Arsenic and Old Lace so that I can see Lane at her finest.

Hugh Herbert plays Lane’s boss, Harvey Bates. Good character actor, but again, see my complaints for the previous two stars.

Perhaps my favorite role in the whole film is played by Marcia Walston as Wanda, the jealous woman in Bogart’s life. It’s a small role, but at least her choices are motivated and understandable!

And don’t forget Penny Singleton! I could watch that woman do anything . . . and I might have a little crush on her.

Classic Bogie Moment

Are you kidding me? This guy even wears swimsuit robes that look like trench coats! Is this as close as we’ll ever get to seeing Rick Blaine relaxing by the pool?

Men are Such Fools Classic

The Bottom Line

This one’s for Bogart completists only.

Wayne Morris

Kid Galahad Morris

Morris with Jane Bryan and Bogart in ‘Kid Galahad’

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Name: Bert DeWayne Morris

Birthdate: February 17, 1914

Number of Films that Wayne Morris made with Humphrey Bogart: 4

The Lowdown

My first Wayne Morris film was Kid Galahad, and I have to admit that it wasn’t an auspicious start for my journey through his Bogart collaborations. But the more I see Morris on screen, the more he grows on me. Typically playing goodhearted, albeit slightly dim, hunks, Morris had a chance in his all-too-short life to stand against some of Hollywood’s greatest legends before suffering a fatal heart attack at the very young age of 45.

With a promising leading man career ahead of him, Morris left Hollywood behind to follow a passion in flying that led him to receiving great honors for his service in World War II. After the war, Morris could never seem to get another big break in A-list films, but he did get one last good movie role opposite Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory. Would it have been enough to carry him back up to a career resurgence? Most likely not, as he spent the next few years before his death appearing in various television Westerns, but it definitely showed that there was more to the good-statured blond than just his looks and his smile!

If you’ve got more interest in Morris and his military service, make sure to check out @HollywoodComet’s write up on him here.

The Filmography

China Clipper – 1936

China Clipper Morris

With Bogart and a few others . . .

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It’s a blink and you’ll miss him role (as I did the first time I watched this film) as Morris plays the flight navigator next to Bogart on the Clipper. You could certainly do worse than starring with Bogart and Pat O’Brien in your very first film, right? You can read my original write up on the film here.

Kid Galahad – 1937

Kid Galahad Morris2

With Harry Carey

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Morris plays the title role of Kid Galahad. He seems a bit stiff and dopey, but it was still fairly early in his career, and the script didn’t give him a lot to work with. But the moment Morris smiles on screen, you can’t take your eyes off of him! I can see why the studio thought that he had potential as a leading man. Plus, he gets to slug Bogart, steal Bette Davis’ heart, and work alongside of Edward G. Robinson. This had to have been a big thrill for the young actor as he went toe-to-toe with so many great Hollywood stars. You can read my original write up on the film here.

Men are Such Fools – 1938

Men are Such Fools Morris

With Priscilla Lane

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Morris plays Jimmy Hall, the love interest to Priscilla Lane, and unfortunately, I’m not exactly sure what else to even say about his character here. In an incredibly strangely scripted film, we watch characters make a lot of choices without any motivation or reason to back them up. Yet, Morris still comes off as the best part of this movie with his good looks and charm shining brightly, and once again, he gets to knock Bogart flat as they play romantic rivals fighting for Lane’s love. It was heartbreaking to see Morris so likable with so little good material. A better script – even a barely decent script – and this film could have been so much better. If nothing else, you can spend some time enjoying what men’s bathing suits used to look like!

men are such fools swimsuits

You can read my original write up on the film here.

The Return of Doctor X – 1939Return of Doctor X Morris

With Dennis Morgan

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I’m an unabashed fan of this cult classic, so it was so much fun to see Morris shine as the Wichita-hick-moved-to-the-big-city reporter, Walter Garrett. He’s bumbling, affable, naïve, and just charming enough to make his character enjoyable to watch. Morris deftly handles the campy comedy and the (somewhat) tension filled moments with grace and ease. Some of my favorite Morris moments:

Morris: (ON THE PHONE, REPORTING THE INITIAL MURDER OF AN ACTRESS THAT SPURS HIS INVESTIGATION) There’s nobody here except a monkey, and he couldn’t have done it!

Is it strange that a washed up actress has a pet monkey? Not to Morris, apparently! Not enough to mention anyways.

And then there’s the scene where Morris’ reporter has to convince Dennis Morgan’s respected surgeon, Dr. Rhodes, to go see if Bogart is really a corpse that’s returned to the land of the living:

Morris: The burial took place at Greenlawn Cemetary. Okay, let’s go out to the cemetery and find out tonight.

Morgan: (SHRUGGING NONCHALANTLY, AS IF JUST ASKED OUT FOR COFFEE) All right.

Yup! Nothing strange about big city reporter and a respected surgeon digging up graves in the middle of night! Nope, typical evening in the big city!

Morris’ relationship with Morgan comes off very much as a precursor to the Mulder/Scully relationship in The X-Files – and I say that as a huge X-Files fan. You can read my original write up on the film here.