One might easily assume that this early John Wayne feature is another of his low budget Monogram westerns that have fallen into public domain and can be found in any number of DVD bargain bins today. Far from it. This time out the Duke is in the military and catnip to the ladies in this pre-code effort released by producer Harry Cohn for Columbia.
“My women understand me. Take one look and know they can expect nothing.” Duke has this to say after going in to the annual Army-Navy football game and kicking the winning convert, coming off the field the hero. Top billed Laura La Plante has eyes only for Duke and when he drops her after two years of “dating” she turns to an older military man.
With Duke transferred to Arizona, his former commanding officer Forrest Stanley marries the younger La Plante. He has no idea that she was at one time the lover of his favorite young recruit. Within the 66 minute running time that is sure to come to a head.
As only Hollywood can write it, Stanley is transferred to the command post in Arizona where Duke is now stationed. He wires ahead to let our young officer know he’s bringing along his new wife. It’s a rather sour introduction when the two meet “officially” for the first time.
While they may be a might cold towards each other, Miss June Clyde as La Plante’s younger sister is smitten from her first look at the young handsome man in the military outfit.
“What a man. I love dangerous men.” she tells her older sibling as she latches onto Duke’s arm in order for him to show her around the base. Miss Clyde as well as Stanley has no idea of Duke’s past with La Plante and jealousies between the two former lovers may derail the new love life of each.
Journeyman director George B. Seitz helmed this early talkie from the pre-code era. Seitz would ultimately settle into guiding Mickey Rooney through numerous Andy Hardy flicks up until his death in 1944. As a film released before the Hays code changed what was acceptable on the movie screens, it’s rather tame compared to some of the features one might have seen Barbara Stanwyck regularly appearing in.
Implications of rape and a torn dress play a significant part near the conclusion and so does Nina Quartero. She’s a Mexican fireball that Duke gets unwillingly tangled up with. Miss Quartero is the one character we weren’t likely to see post 1934. Her role is that of a drunken woman out for fun and seemingly available to any man who offers her a ride.
This early film in John Wayne’s career offered little of what was to come in the decades ahead. A romantic leading man in a stage bound production don’t exactly appeal to the strengths we associate with the legendary actor. It also represents another failed attempt at turning Duke into a matinee idol years before John Ford would make it a reality. Working for Harry Cohn would turn into a disaster and subsequently a short lived union.
Not being overly familiar with Miss La Plante’s career other then her turn in the 1927 silent The Cat and the Canary, I found her rather boring generating little heat on the screen with Duke and vice versa. It’s June Clyde who comes off best as the excitable younger sister full of energy and life. She even cajoles Duke into singing along with her in the kitchen!
The well known cinematographer and sometimes director Ted Tetzlaff was employed on this feature that is part of the TCM Vault Collection released on DVD in the Columbia Pre-Code Collection should you be needing to add it to your own pile of John Wayne titles.
That was my motivation to acquire this one that was subsequently renamed Men Are Like That. Perhaps that may have had something to do with the 1940 release of the Jean Arthur Columbia Pictures film Arizona.