For Reel

Aggie Appleby, Maker of Men (1933)
November 24, 2013, 2:40 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mark Sandrich
5 Stars
Aggie ApplebyLate in Aggie Appleby, Maker of Men, the humorously-named Adoniram Schlump (Charles Farrell) is told, “As long as there’s women, you’re bound to be mixed up.” Indeed, this remarkable forgotten gem from the pre-Code era is about a very masculine crisis of identity, wherein the men are so shaped by the women they’re trying to get in bed with that they end up taking on a series of roles rather than establishing an identity of their own. Where the film really excels is also in taking seriously the struggles of a strong-willed woman in a world of cocksure but ultimately weak-willed men, who are so eager to please that they aren’t much of a man to begin with. This play between the sexes, however exaggerated for this brisk programmer, is what makes this romantic comedy such a revelation–there’s a deep underlying sadness in the way that roles are taken and ascribed, and it is honest about the tendency in lovers to want something different from what they have, only when they get it they’re not so satisfied with that either. Wynne Gibson is terrific as the titular Appleby, who next to Farrell seems close in stature to his frequent co-star Janet Gaynor, however her persona is more akin to the brash, sexually-brazen Joan Blondell type. While the film is sloppy around the edges and it doesn’t aspire for the profundity that I suggest it possesses, it is an unexpected treasure that deserves to be discovered.

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