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.

The Return of Doctor X – 1939

drx

My Review

—A Campy Blast—

Bogie Film Fix:

My Sign  (Un-ratable – an honorary 3 Undead Doctors!)

Director:  Vincent Sherman

The Lowdown

When reporter Walter Garrett (Wayne Morris) stumbles across the body of a murdered actress and calls the police, he soon finds himself in hot water after the body disappears and he’s accused of making a false report.  Later, when the dead actress shows up alive, Garrett loses his reporting job and teams up with a doctor (Dennis Morgan) to investigate a series of mysterious deaths that involve a mad scientist (John Litel) and his undead assistant (Humphrey Bogart).

What I Thought

I don’t know what else to say except I absolutely loved this film.  I had heard and read so much about it over the years (it’s terrible camp, the script is awful, Humphrey Bogart hated it, he was forced into the role by the studio, it’s unwatchable, etc. . .) that I might have over-prepared myself to dislike this movie.

I’m not a huge fan of films that are considered “so-bad-they’re-good.”  It might get me a lot of hate email to write this, but I went to showings of Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Rocky Horror Picture Show in college and I left disappointed both times.  What was the big deal?  How can someone watch and rewatch movies that are so bad?  If I’m going to spend a large portion of my time at the cinema, I’d much rather see something good!

I think the difference with The Return of Doctor X is the fact that this is a horrible movie that’s actually directed very well.  Vincent Sherman’s first film as a director, The Return of Doctor X is a fast paced one hour and two minutes of well shot silliness.  The cinematography is great, the actors are committed, and the production value is high.

The only real problem with this film is the script . . . and yes, I realize that a terrible script is a pretty big problem to have.  But it’s terrible in a slap-your-forehead-funny kind of way.

Dr. Rhodes (Dennis Morgan) wants to help reporter Walter Garrett (Wayne Morris) investigate the murders, but he has a date with a nurse (Rosemary Lane)!  He can’t cancel the date because that would be impolite, so what does he decide to do?  Bring her along, of course!  Even though bringing her along means that all she does is sit in the car until one a.m. and then go home, but it’s better than letting the poor woman sit at home alone, right?

Then there’s the moment that reporter Garrett convinces Dr. Rhodes that he should help him investigate the possible resurrection of a mad scientist.  They need to run over to the cemetery to see if Humphrey Bogart’s Dr. X is really dead.  (Don’t worry, Garrett has a friend who’s a caretaker at the cemetery and he’ll apparently let them dig up any body that they want, no questions asked – cause, you know, reporters should be able to do that kind of thing.)  The whole conversation is this simple:

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

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

No argument.  No conversation.  No exclamations or questions of, “Are you mad man?  Digging up corpses in the middle of the night?  You’re a reporter and I’m a respected surgeon!  What are you thinking?!?”  Just a simple, “Yeah, you betcha.  Let’s go!”

And, of course, there’s the final gun fight, where the police apparently deem it appropriate to give guns to a doctor and a reporter that they were ready to arrest only moments before.  Every hand in a gun fight helps, right?

Plus, we get lines like:

Garrett:  (ON THE PHONE, REPORTING THE INITIAL MURDER) There’s nobody here except a monkey, and he couldn’t have done it!

Exactly why does a retired actress have a pet monkey?  It’s not explained, and apparently doesn’t need to be.  That’s just what retired actresses do.  (I’m guessing there was a monkey on the studio lot that day and director Sherman figured, Aw, what the heck, why not?)

Then there’s Dr. Flegg discussing his undead assistant, Quesne (pronounced “Cane”):

Flegg:  (WISTFULLY) His interest in blood almost equals my own.

This seems like a perfectly acceptable thing to say when you’re in a conversation with another doctor, as Rhodes doesn’t respond with, “That’s the creepiest doggone thing I’ve ever heard!  What’s up with that forked goatee and the weirdly suspended monocle?”

Do you know what this film reminds me of?  One of those standalone episodes of The X-Files where the humor was intentional and dark, and the series took a moment to satirize itself.  (It even has an obsessed investigator teamed up with a skeptical doctor!)  The Return of Doctor X, after more than seventy years, came off to me more like a self-aware spoof of a mad scientist horror movie than a film trying to take its genre seriously.  While this may not have been the original intention, the film’s tone gives it a little more room to breathe within its own absurdity.

Director Vincent Sherman would also go on to direct Bogart again in All Through the Night in 1941, a comedy gangster film where Bogart fights the Nazis in New York.  With the tone of that movie leaning so closely to spoofing gangster films, I have to wonder how much of The Return of Doctor X isn’t done with tongue firmly placed in cheek.

The Bogart Factor

Bogart may have hated this film, but you have to give him credit, he threw himself into the role.  There’s no sense that he’s sleepwalking through his lines or dissatisfied with his character.  The Return of Doctor X is another reason that I’ve come to deeply appreciate Bogart’s work ethic as an actor.  Regardless of what role he plays, he always seems committed.  If you’re going to force him to play an undead mad scientist, then he’s going to play an undead mad scientist!

I realize that I’m looking through the lens of someone who is a huge Bogart fan and that I’m seven decades removed from the film’s original theatrical release, but isn’t it great to see a Hollywood legend take a role like this?  A zombie doctor!  Is there anyone else of Bogart’s stature that even tried a character so outlandish?  Stewart?  Grant?  Flynn?  At most, they might have played a villain, but nothing close to sci-fi horror.

Check out his entrance in the film as he strokes a rabbit in full mad scientist gear, and greets Wayne Morris:

drx

“Looking for something?  Perhaps I can help you. . .”

Surely James Bond’s nemesis, Ernst Blofeld, was borrowed just a bit from Bogart’s Doctor X?

The Cast

After not giving him much credit for his character in Kid Galahad, I was happy to see Wayne Morris do such a good job with his Wichita-hick-moved-to-the-big-city reporter Walter Garrett.  Morris seems like a good natured guy in real life, and was an actual WWII war hero, so I’m happy to see him do good work here.  He’s bumbling, affable, naïve, and just charming enough to make his character fun.  If you want to read a little more about him, I’d suggest you check out a quick write up on the guy at Comet Over Hollywood here.

Dennis Morgan, as Dr. Michael Rhodes, comes off as the type of melodramatic physician that would fit perfectly into an afternoon soap opera, and I thought he was a great choice for the role.  He’s able to deliver dialogue that has little or no motivation behind it in a believable and engaging way.  I’d like to check out more of his filmography.

Rosemary Lane as Nurse Vance seems to have been a bit of a throwaway role – her character really only existing as a plot device.

John Litel as Dr. Flegg is good and appropriately creepy.  It helps that they went all out on his character design – giving him a monocle (How does that thing stay in place???) and a strange, forked goatee.

Classic Bogie Moment

This character was so out of Bogart’s normal realm that I thought it was going to be tough to find a “Classic Bogie Moment,” but then we came to the film’s climactic gun fight.  As you watch Doctor X attempt to shoot his way out of the cabin, just try and tell me that you’re not reminded of Duke Mantee’s final gunfight in The Petrified Forest!  Bogart even uses the same physicality of holding his hands at his waist in both roles.

The Bottom Line

You need to make some good food, invite a bunch of classic film fans over, and have a good time with this movie.  You could make a drinking game out of it, taking a swig every time Wayne Morris and Dennis Morgan look dramatically over their shoulders at one another, but you’d probably be dead from alcohol poisoning based on the last fifteen minutes of the movie alone.

For another fun write up on The Return of Doctor X, you should check out this post on Balladeer’s blog!

And for a great insight into some post-silent film stars who make an appearance in the film, check out this post by @moviessilently!

Kid Galahad – 1937

gala

My Review

—Good, Harmless Fun—

Your Bogie Fix:

1.5 Bogie out of 5 Bogies!

Director:  – Michael Curtiz

The Lowdown

Boxing promoter Nick Donati (Edward G. Robinson) and his girlfriend “Fluff” (Bette Davis) stumble across an unknown fighting phenomenon when they witness a bellhop (Wayne Morris) knock out an experienced fighter at a hotel party.  Donati immediately sees dollar signs in the bellhop’s championship potential, while his girlfriend Fluff starts to fall in love.  The only problem?  The boxer that the bellhop knocked out works for mobster “Turkey” Morgan (Humphrey Bogart), and Morgan is willing to do whatever it takes to get his revenge on the bellhop, and the fast talking Donati.

What I Thought

It’s a by-the-numbers Warner picture for the time it was made.  It’s not bad, but it’s not great.  It’s predictable, but fun. Robinson and Davis definitely save the day with their great portrayals, turning it into an enjoyable film.

The Bogart Factor 

Well, Bogart’s present, I guess.  It’s my lowest “Bogie Fix” review so far, so that should tell you something.  He doesn’t get a lot of screen time, and when he does, he’s relegated to being the stock mob-guy character.  He is able to put a slight twist on it though, making “Turkey” Morgan more of a sniveling whiner than a cutthroat gangster.  This film’s much more suited for a Robinson or Davis fix, as the viewer can go for extended periods of time with no Bogie in sight.

The Cast 

Robinson and Davis as the leads do what they do best.  Robinson is every bit the real life caricature that we’ve all grown to love, and Bette Davis is gorgeous and fun.

Davis plays ‘Fluff’ with a girl-next-door quality that left me wondering for the first half of the movie how she ended up with Robinson.  There is a brief scene in a car with Morris where she alludes to a darker past, but come on, Bette!  You can do better!

The first party scene in the hotel though, where she’s serving drinks in a flower print dress with a low neckline . . . whew – she is GORGEOUS!

bette

Wayne Morris is okay.  He’s big, and stiff, and perhaps a little more dopey than what the script called for.  Although, I was amazed at how much charm he could exude with a smile.  One smile, and you can’t take your eyes off the guy.  I can see why the studio thought he had potential as a leading man.  He’s capable enough and does his job in this movie, but if you want a better dose of him, you should check out Paths of Glory.

Jane Bryan, who played Davis’ kid sister in Marked Woman, shows up here as Robinson’s kid sister, Marie.  She plays young and naïve, and we believe she’s the country brat who falls in love with the farmboy boxer.  The more I see of Bryan, the more impressed I am as she elevates any movie she’s in – and I have to admit that I’m starting to develop a little thing for her . . .

Don’t Forget to Notice. . . 

Ben Welden, who was so good as the menacing enforcer, Charlie, in Marked Woman, appears here as Morgan’s right hand man, Buzz Barett.  Notice that with only the addition of an ear-to-ear grin, his presence goes from menacing in Marked Woman to incredibly smarmy in Kid Galahad.  This guy is so much fun to watch in the background of any scene he’s in.

Classic Bogie Moment

There was not a lot to pick from, but there is one neat shot towards the end of the movie after the climactic boxing match.  Bogart’s “Turkey” Morgan needs to lure the cops away from Robinson and Morris.  We get a wonderful shot of him lurking behind a chain link fence, cigarette dangling from his mouth – and then moments later, a great silhouette of Bogie with his gun drawn.

galahadgalahad 2

The Bottom Line

The movie is enjoyable enough that it should be on any Bogart fan’s list, but I’d advise you to double bill it with a 3+ Bogie Film Fix to make sure that you’re not jonesing for more Bogie later!  How about Petrified Forest?  Then you can spend countless nights pining away for Bette Davis just like I do now.  On second thought, that much young and gorgeous Bette Davis might be too powerful for any mortal man to handle . . . be careful!

A Little Extra

Wayne Morris’ life and career were cut short after a heart attack when he was forty-five.  Even at that young age, he still had a good, long list of credits.  Make sure you check him out in Kirk Douglas’ Paths of Glory where he gets a better role to shine with!