For Reel


Skylark (1941)
February 28, 2015, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Mark Sandrich
3.5 Stars
SkylarkA forgotten example of a remarriage comedy from the early 1940s, Skylark casts the likable pair of Claudette Colbert and Ray Milland as a married couple who separates shortly after their fifth wedding anniversary because it has become clear that he’s more focused on his job than on her. When a debonaire, shamelessly home-wrecking bachelor gets involved (Brian Aherne) and offers her the attention that she lacks, she is drawn away from her husband, who becomes harshly aware of his neglectful ways. Although many of these comedies involved sharp, acerbic dialogue between the sexes and generally carry a lighter tone, Skylark is strangely melancholic. Milland’s penchant for ignoring his wife early on is treated as a gag, but Colbert’s response evokes a lot of audience sympathy. She doesn’t seem like she is engaged in the familiar sparring match that occurs in the battle of the sexes, rather like she’s being beat down by a repressive marriage. Aherne’s slimy distraction is no consolation for those wishing that she had a romantic partner more deserving of her. Zion Myer’s adaptation (the source material is a play and novel penned by Samson Raphaelson) indulges the relatively dramatic tone by speaking openly about gender, marriage, and expectations, including a remarkably unique scene in which the passengers on a train comment on the couple’s dissolving marriage.



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.