Men Are Such Fools (1938)

Men Are Such Fools (1938)

The title comes from the last line spoken in the film by Priscilla Lane incidentally. Directed by Busby Berkeley it features Ms. Lane as a secretary in an ad agency who wants to become a successful working woman. Unfortunately the film gets pretty bogged down in some very dated stereotypes of women in the workplace and especially men’s attitudes towards it. Lane shares an apartment with Penny Singleton who (for contrast) plays the more typical secretary who is only working until she can find a husband who will marry her and allow her to stay at home (which of course she does).

In any case Lane is so attractive that every man in the firm is trying to date (but not necessarily marry) her. As secretary to Mr. Bates played by Hugh Harvey (with a very annoying “whoo hoo” throughout) a rather bumbling “first line manager his entire career” type Lane quickly advances to a position as his assistant. A career woman played fairly convincingly by Mona Barrie is initially reluctant to share her “queen bee” status with Lane. However once she recognizes the same ambition in Lane as her own she instead begins to mentor her somewhat.

Wayne Morris (who is perhaps best known as the young bellhop-come-boxer in Michael Curtiz’s Kid Galahad with Edward G. Robinson Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart) plays an ex-football jock from Princeton who is also very ambitious especially in his rather obnoxious pursuit of Ms. Lane. In fact it is his whole attitude and actions towards Ms. Lane’s character throughout the film that will be most offensive to anyone (especially female viewers) watching the film these days. He exhibits a very physical “won’t take no for an answer” approach to getting Lane to marry him which she does. This is followed by him insisting she give up her very promising (more so than his?) career to be there for him when he gets home from work especially after (with Mona Barrie’s character’s assistance) Lane starts working with the “top dog” played by Humphrey Bogart. Bogart like every other man in the agency can’t resist Ms. Lane’s looks and starts to intentionally sabotage her 3 month marriage to Morris which precipitates his ultimatum.

After six months of staying at home and dealing with a daily routine which includes picking up her husband at the train station and carpooling home with Gene Lockhart’s (another very annoying) character Lane decides to work a behind the scenes deal to further her husband’s career. When he declines the offer never knowing of her involvement she walks out accusing him of being not ambitious enough for her. This leaves room for Bogart to get back into the picture. But of course everything works out in time (in this less than 70 minute film!) for a happy ending. A most unusual film for Bogart.

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