Appeal is aimed strictly at the emotions, as the plot is another variation of self-sacrificing mother love. The film is a remake of The Trespasser, which Edmund Goulding earlier wrote and directed for Gloria Swanson in 1929.
Film relates the adventures of a self-reliant young woman (Bette Davis), who as a girl of 16 married a gangster, since deceased, after a bootleg altercation. She becomes the secretary of a prominent lawyer, an unhappily married man, who falls in love with her but keeps his distance. She falls in love with a wealthy young wastrel and marries him.
His father compels the young woman to reveal her past. The marriage is annulled, and the girl returns to her job. A son is born. Much later a scandal brings back the wastrel youth, now reformed, to help his one-time wife.
It’s a synthetic tale that does not stand up under too close analysis. The story deficiencies are not so important, however, because the characters are made credible by Davis and the cast, and by Goulding’s smooth direction. Ian Hunter as the girl’s employer, and Henry Fonda as the boy in the case are excellent.