|Index||3 reviews in total|
This is the first sound version of George Kelly's THE SHOW OFF. There
was a silent version starring Ford Sterling a few years earlier and two
MGM versions later on, one starring Spencer Tracy and the other Red
Skelton. This version starring Hal Skelly is technically the best of
the sound versions, with sure-handed comedy construction and some
interesting camera-work by Archie Stout. However, Skelly gives the
worst recorded performance as the lead.
Aubrey Piper, the title character, is a tough role to play. He is an arrogant blow hard at the center of the play, so we must find something to like about him. The leads in the other versions showed flashes of uncertainty throughout the performances that showed self-awareness and humanized him. Skelly, with his performance loud enough for the stage, is nothing but bluster and bullying. The few early scenes of tenderness with Doris Hill, aren't enough. We don't care about Skelly, so we don't care about the movie. The technical issues mentioned above are enough to keep you watching, but it's certainly no masterpiece.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Looking back it is hard to see what Paramount saw in Hal Skelly. He was
one of the original stars from the Broadway show "Burlesque" who
Paramount contracted to star in the all singing, all dancing movie
version "The Dance of Life" (the female star, Barbara Stanwyck was
replaced by Nancy Carroll) and he was terrific in that as the
vaudeville clown who hits the big time and also the skids and is nursed
back to health by his loyal partner Bonnie (Carroll was magnificent,
Stanwyck could not have been better). But he wasn't exactly leading man
material, being more a young character actor and his roles reflected
that. "Men Are Like That" was the first talkie version of "The Show
Off", a favourite of many a comedy actor. Initially a New York stage
hit from 1924 written by George Kelly (Gene Kelly was his niece) and
all about a likable braggart who exasperated both friends and family.
Ma and Pa Fisher (Clara Blandick and Charles Sellon) are not too pleased that their daughter Amy (Doris Hill) is over the moon about "show off" Aubrey Piper (Skelly). From the start Skelly makes this role his own - even when he is not in the scene, his annoying laugh can be heard all over the house. Ma calls him the human radio station (Blandick has the best lines, in another scene she says he can be made "our foreign representative"). He tries to advise young Joe (Morgan Farley), a budding inventor, about modifying his invention - Joe looks confused and amused as it seems that weeks before Joe had explained his ideas to him and now Aubrey is passing them off as his own!!!
He and Amy get married but eight months later nothing has changed except maybe Amy's illusions - Aubrey still has big ideas while still on $32.00 a week. Suddenly the mood turns bleak - Pa has a stroke and dies at work, Aubrey and Amy come back home to help out and Aubrey is involved in a minor traffic altercation which escalates in fines after Aubrey can't keep his opinions about big city councils and police procedures to himself. Once again big sister Clara's (Helene Chadwick) husband (William B. Davidson, a familiar movie face) is on hand to bail him out - his bank account seems to be a bottomless pit but in an insightful moment Clara tells her mother she would rather have the love of a ne'er do well like Aubrey than sensible Frank, who has never gotten over an earlier love who died. The movie finishes quickly (just under an hour) as Aubrey's bombastic negotiating on behalf of Joe produces unexpected results.
Doris Hill had been a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1929 and Paramount obviously had faith in her ability but there was nothing to make her stand out from the crowd, she was attractive but not a head turner and her acting was just competent. Morgan Farley was also an actor quite busy in those turbulent "you have to talk as well as sing and dance" days. He had a similar look to William Bakewell, played the same type of roles but left movies in the early 1930s to concentrate on the stage.
Men Are Like That is a buried 'treasure' best left interred. Clocking in at a brief 58 minutes, this would-be comedy stars unfunny stage actor Hal Skelly as an annoying husband who gets tangled up with the law and traffic cop Eugene Pallette. The cast is uniformly dull, bar Pallette, whose screen time is limited, and the film has no laughs, no drama, and no tears. A disaster all around.
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