Aggie Appleby, Maker of Men (1933) Poster

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Forgotten Pre-Code Gem
Ron Oliver28 May 2004
A brawling roughneck and a timid wimp are both whipped into shape by AGGIE APPLEBY MAKER OF MEN.

This refreshingly forthright & honest look at a Depression-era New York City female and her two problem men is a delight from start to finish. Elements both comic and tender are blended together into a very satisfying package which, whatever the situation, rings true every time. Wynne Gibson gives a remarkably unaffected performance--bold, brassy, bossy, but also unfailingly decent & loving. She doesn't waste time with either regrets or excuses, but gets on with her tough life, helping others whenever she can.

Charles Farrell, a major box office star in the early 1930's, is excellent as the diffident young fellow who changes his entire persona, thanks to Miss Gibson's efforts. Farrell lets us see how vulnerable his character still is, even after assuming his new attitude. The short scene in which he is attacked by a bully is actually painful to watch. William Gargan epitomizes the kind of loudmouthed bruiser who's actually a softy when it comes to his girl.

Wispy & almost ethereal, the enormously talented ZaSu Pitts plays the cleaning lady friend of Miss Gibson. Future consumer advocate Betty Furness portrays Farrell's surprisingly liberated hometown girlfriend, while Blanche Frederici appears as his rather frightful aunt.

Movie mavens will recognize an unbilled Jane Darwell as Miss Gibson's practical landlady.
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Wonderful Wynne Gibson
drednm4 June 2005
Why didn't she become a star? She's completely wonderful in this swell little comedy, a cross between Sylvia Sidney and Mae West with a dab of Ruth Donnelly. Gibson stars as Aggie, who's husband Red (William Gargan) gets sent up for punching out 3 cops. Broke and starving, she meets up with prissy Charles Farrell. She makes a man of him (ahem) and falls for him despite her best intentions. Nice little comedy all round with everyone turning in good performances. Zasu Pitts is fun as Aggie's sister, and Betty Furness and Blanche Fredericci are good too. Maybe Farrell's best talkie, but Gibson is certainly the STAR here, dominating every scene she's in.
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Lowbrow, pre-code fun!
mark.waltz6 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The tough Wynne Gibson is the live-in girlfriend of brutish William Gargan who goes to prison for beating up cops in a riot at the restaurant where Gibson works. Now fired, she is kicked out of her room by landlady Jane Darwell. Pal Zasu Pitts, a maid, allows Gibson to sleep in one of the rooms where she works while its tenant, Charles Farrell, is out. Gibson, sort of a modern day Snow White (who obviously drifted), is sound asleep when Farrell comes in, and feeling sorry for her, Farrell allows her to stay. In return, she decides to help him find a job by becoming tougher. But when Gargan gets out of prison, the two are in for trouble!

This is the prototype for what made movies so fun before Will Hays came in with his scissors, filled with innuendos throughout and so many witty lines. The script basically burlesques the tough dialog of depression era New York, and Gibson goes to town with lines like "Life begins and ends in the bed. And then some." and "Quit talking like a lollipop. Put some words with hair on them." Even the hand-wringing Pitts gets into the act, quipping with "I figure men are like trees. The more you tap them, the faster the sap comes out." Pitts sums up Gibson's situation with "You may think you're in love with two men, but one of them is just indigestion." Gibson, who stole her brief scene in the all-star "If I Had a Million" as an obvious prostitute who chooses to take her millions, rent a darkened hotel room, and sleep alone, has a presence of nobody else from this era, although it is obvious that she was modeled on Mae West. Farrell, free from those sunny Janet Gaynor musicals at Fox, gets to explore two sides of his character, and Pitts makes the most of every moment she is on screen as well.

The opening credits of the elevated train going through the lower east side of Manhattan are a visual treasure. You won't run into Leo Gorcey or Huntz Hall in this part of the Bowery!
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Winning Depression Era Romantic Comedy
Thalberg24 June 2002
The Depression era comes alive in this film about a waitress (Wynne Gibson) who falls in love with a street-fighting hoodlum, Red Branagan (William Gargan). When Branagan goes to prison for beating up some cops, Aggie is left broke and on her own, eventually meeting Adoniram Schlump (Charles Farrell), a rich sissy from Upstate trying to make it in the big city. Under Aggie's tutelage, Schlump takes on Branagan's identity and his combativeness. Then the real Branagan gets out of prison....

Gibson and Gargan are particularly good as a couple of tough New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet, and Farrell (reminiscent here of Harold Lloyd, whom he slightly resembled) comes alive as a neurotic rich boy who finds success as a brawler. The film's use of slang is especially entertaining -- dated, but colorful. (Aggie tells Schlump: "Stop talking like a lollipop. Use some words with hair on them.")

Can't help wondering whether the film's clever title would have been possible a year or two later, with the coming of the Production Code.
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Needs to Be Rediscovered By Film Buffs
Michael_Elliott14 December 2013
Aggie Appleby, Maker of Men (1933)

*** (out of 4)

Agnes "Aggie" Appleby (Wynne Gibson) is kicked out of her room when her tough guy boyfriend (William Gargan) goes to jail. Broke and out on the streets, Aggie meets the soft-spoken and kind Adoniram (Charles Farrell) who begins to fall for her but she plans to make him into a tough guy. With such an off-beat title it seems like this film would be better known to film buffs but it has pretty much been forgotten to the ages. This is too bad because it's actually a quite clever little film that has a few nice twists along the way. The film starts off as a comedy as we see Aggie trying to turn this wimp into a man. This includes getting rid of his glasses, getting him a "tough" job and then making him a fighter. She's able to turn this nice guy into the type of tough guy that she likes but things get messy once they fall in love and then her ex gets out of prison. I was really surprised by how effective the entire film was. The early scenes are full of great comedy and especially one sequence where Adoniram wins his fight by the luckiest of ways. The middle portion of the film turns into a romantic drama but this here also works thanks in large part to the two stars. Both Gibson and Farrell are so good together and so believable in their roles that you can't help but fall for both of them. Farrell was extremely impressive with the way he plays this rather soft character and he's also believable once he starts to change. Gargan is a blast as the rather dumb but tough boyfriend and Zasu Pitts is fine as the girl's best friend. I'm not going to spoil the ending but it too is something you just won't expect.

AGGIE APPLEBY, MAKER OF MEN is certainly a very fun little gem that deserves to be rediscovered.
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MartinHafer6 December 2013
"Aggie Appleby Maker of Men" is a rare treat. It's a film I'd never heard of and I had very low expectations--yet the film turned out to be great fun. It also clearly is an example of a Pre-Code film, as much of the plot involves two people who are not married cohabiting. Platonic or not, this would be a definite no-no in the era of the strengthened Production Code beginning in mid-1934.

When the film begins, Aggie (Wynne Gibson) is in love with the brutish Red Branahan (William Gargan). Branahan is a tough-guy--much like Bluto from the Popeye cartoons! However, he won't work and is a schemer and gambler--not the best husband material, but Aggie loves him.

Because of Red's strength, temper and stupidity, he gets himself jailed after a fight with several cops. The fight must have been pretty bad, as it seems like he was sent away for some time. In the meantime, Aggie is broke and has no place to live. So, her goofy sister (Zasu Pitts) has an idea--Aggie can sleep in one of the empty apartments in the building where she cleans. And, as long as Aggie leaves before the man who lives there arrives, no one will know. However, he returns home early and instead of being angry, Adoniram 'Schlumpy' Schlump (Charles Farrell) is very understanding of her plight and even lets her stay with hanky-panky.

Schlumpy is practically the opposite of Red. Schlumpy is a mama's boy--weak and effete. However, he's also very decent and so Aggie takes it upon herself to toughen him up. Part of this toughening process is to have him pretend to be Red. After all, Red has a reputation as a tough-guy and if Schlumpy just ACTS tough, perhaps he can learn to be tough. Well, this toughening process seems to be very effective. But when happens when the real Red is unexpectedly released from jail? Tune in and see.

This film is a delightful little comedy. While it has few huge belly laughs, it's very cute and the actors did a lovely job. Farrell was great and Wynne was so good that I agree with the other reviewer who wonders why she didn't become more of a star. Perhaps she didn't have the looks Hollywood was looking for, but she did a great job. Well worth seeing.
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Great Find
utgard1423 November 2013
Delightful intelligent romantic comedy. Wynne Gibson stars as the title character Aggie Appleby. Aggie marries a roughneck named Red Branahan (William Gargan). After Red is sent to prison, Aggie is left homeless and, through a comical turn of events, winds up sharing the apartment of meek wimp Adoniram Schlump (Charles Farrell). She begins to help Schlump turn his personality around, gain some confidence, and even find a job using her husband's name and reputation. But this is just the start of the story as the two fall in love right as her husband gets out of prison.

This is an undiscovered gem. A Depression-era comedy that's smart and fun, with snappy dialogue and endearing performances by all. Wynne Gibson is exceptional and I'm surprised she didn't go on to better things. My only complaint is I was hoping for a different ending but got something predictable. This time the production code can't be blamed either. Still, it's not enough to detract from an excellent film.
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Novel plot idea doesn't have the oomph to be more than mediocre
SimonJack1 January 2020
"Aggie Appleby" is an early RKO comedy romance that shows the rough quality of filmmaking in the early days of sound pictures. It also has a cast of actors that were mostly forgotten by the mid-20th century. Only William Gargan, who plays Red Branahan, and Zasu Pitts, Sybby, had careers that went much beyond the 1930s.

The plot for this film is somewhat novel, and it could be developed into an interesting, and funny film. But the screenplay is weak and the development of the characters is wanting. The story scenes appear choppy and the actors at times seem wooden, as though they were taking cues on stage.

Charles Farrel in the male lead as Adoniram Schlump did well in silent films, but only made a dozen films after this, ending his career after 1941 in the 1950s with a short-run TV show and playing in a comedy series. He was a good actor, but not a great one, and with a high-pitched voice, he would have needed super talent to thrive in the tallies.

Wynne Gibson, Aggie in this film, was a talented enough actress who couldn't seem to move above the "B" sets. She made a bunch more movies into the early 1940s, mostly in supporting roles. She left acting except for an occasional appearance after that, and instead became a Hollywood agent.

This would have been a good plot with some serious rewriting and casting with some better actors, but I don't think there's been another movie made along the same theme.
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Good for its genre and worth the time
HallmarkMovieBuff3 June 2005
"Aggie Appleby" sounds like the name of a character that should be in a series, like "Torchy Blane" or "Maisie Ravier." But, alas, this is it. It makes one wonder how playwright Joseph Kesselring came up with such a name for this character in the first place, and if it was a tribute to somebody he knew.

This film occasionally betrays its stage play origins, but that's not bad. If you're a fan of this genre and time period, you've seen this story many times. Yet, there are just enough variations and plot twists to keep this interesting, which is a credit to the script. It's always interesting to see how a script writer gets out of seemingly dead end plot threads.

There are many well-known actors in this movie; but I watched it in part because I was unfamiliar with the female lead, Wynne Gibson, who does credit to her part. And there's a close-up of her with co-star Farrell which brings out the beauty in her hair and helps define the term, "silver screen."

I'm always surprised when I watch Charles Farrell in one of his early films. He was so different -- in appearance, in voice, and in mannerisms -- than the mature actor I watched in "My Little Margie" on TV. Here, he plays the romantic lead, the naive youth educated by Gibson's woman of experience.

And Jane many times did she play The Landlady (or The Ma, or Mrs. So-and-So)? Too many to count! She had the part, however small, down pat.

Finally, nobody can twitch her nose (indeed, half her face) as Zasu Pitts does here. She gives Elizabeth Montgomery (and now Nicole Kidman) a run for the money. (Look for it in her scene with Farrell on the stairs, or you may miss it.)

My only complaint with this movie is one I have with many from its time (and even with some from today), i.e., jerky editing. There are a number of scene transitions where the break between takes is all too obvious -- characters out of position and out of look.

I gave this movie a middling score. Had I rated it when it was made, I might have assigned it a point higher, but I'm too spoiled, perhaps, by advances in movie-making that have developed since. Still, in my opinion, this movie is well worth the seventy-some minutes it takes to watch.
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Wynne Gibson Makes the Most of a Rare Starring Role!!
kidboots12 November 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Aggie meets Red during a diner brawl and it is love at first fight!! - a bit down the track and reality sets in. And isn't Wynne terrific - wow, I was in heaven with a rare Wynne Gibson starrer - she's Aggie, a tough talking (but soft hearted) gal who tries to keep Red on the straight and narrow!! And the wisecracks!! - "I just imagine those two dames gnawing over the same bone", "that's a two buck woid", "quit talking like a lollipop and use some woids with zeros"!! - all said in Wynne's tough but tender voice!!

Things come to a head when Red (William Gargan) is taken in charge and Aggie has to vacate her rooms. Her pal (Zasu Pitts) lets her stay in a room rented by an absent minded professor type (Charles Farrell) who is looking for a job!! Aggie takes him in hand - first of all changing his name to Red!! And Farrell is fine as well, at first, but the film slows a bit when Farrell assumes that tough guy persona - he's just not that convincing as a brawling construction worker. When he is puzzled about why he can't get a job (a very funny scene) and playing "Pomp and Circumstance" on the phonograph and pining for his fiancee Evangeline, he is great. Betty Furness once again takes a colourless part and puts her stamp on it!!

The film turns dramatic when the real Red is given a pardon - Aggie realises in meeting Eva that she is the right girl for Farrell, she's refined but rejoices in his new found he-man spirit. Apparently William Gargan hated his role in this film, he felt he was being typecast as cartoonish lovable lugs but he was fine and the end, showing Aggie has another remake on her hands - to turn the real Red into a dignified floor walker!!

Very Recommended.
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