Her Mad Night (1932) Poster


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"moral melodrama" from the first decade of talkies
Gorbo7 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Her Mad Night (aka Held for Murder) is a "moral melodrama" from the first decade of talkies. Irene Rich, often paired with Will Rogers in silent and sound movies, also had success starring in her own radio show, "Dear John," which premiered the year after this film was released and ran more than ten years. Director E. Mason Hopper retired from directing three years after helming this picture, but resurfaced in 1950 with a bit part in one of Hollywood's greatest masterpieces, Sunset Boulevard.

Incredible twists of fate have led Joan Manners to an appointment with the electric chair. Her problems begin with a whirlwind courtship with wealthy lawyer Steve Kennedy. Steve tells her about his adopted daughter, Connie, a young woman he has raised since she was a child. Joan reels in shock when she sees the girl's baby picture and recognizes the infant as her own, a product of a past she's trying to conceal. Steve's life-long best friend, womanizer Schuyler Durkin, was once Joan's lover and is currently wooing the coquettish Connie on the sly. This tangled web of relationships leads to Connie accidentally shooting Durkin when he tries to rape her. To protect her daughter, Joan takes the rap for Durkin's death. Even with Steve as defense counsel, Joan's courtroom refusal to reveal the truth about the killing dooms her to execution.
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A First Class Flirt!!
kidboots14 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The "Madame X" style storyline breathed new life into the careers of many actresses who would have been considered over the hill - ie Irene Rich. She had had some interesting parts in the 1920s, "Craig's Wife", "A Lost Lady" etc until the 1930s saw her teamed more often with Will Rogers as his nagging wife. "Her Mad Night" packs enough plot for ten movies. There is the "lady with a past" - as Joan Manners is swept of her feet by ardent lawyer Steven Kennedy (Conway Tearle) who shows her a picture of his ward, Constance, as a baby - shock! horror! Joan realises it is her own child! the one she left all those years before - secret no.1.

Back in New York Constance (Mary Carlisle) has grown up to be a first class flirt, romancing Park Avenue penthouse keys from various love struck beaus which she gleefully shows off to her latest, Schuyler Durkin (Kenneth Thomson, playing the same role as he did in "The Broadway Melody"). But he is not like the rest - he is older and a womaniser and believes Connie's innocent flirting hides a worldly nature. When Steven returns from the cruise Durkin is keen to hide his relations with Connie but when he learns that Steven is set to marry Joan, he is not so reticent about revealing that in the past Joan and he were lovers - secret no. 2!! She had in fact taken the cruise to rid herself of his unwanted attentions!!

Then there is the "Millie" connection ("Millie" was a huge hit of the year before). Connie visits Joan and an instant rapport is struck, so much so that Joan has revealed her own relations with Durkin and that she is desperate to retrieve some incriminating letters from his apartment. "It's a cinch" says Connie and plans to use her own key to break into his place (no, there are no big scenes! "What! you were in love with the same man" and "so, you think you're good enough to marry my father" etc, it is only just an hour in length, so it cuts to the chase pretty fast!). Durkin returns to find Connie going through his things and when he realises that it is after midnight, of course he thinks she has only come for one thing, which he attempts before...... ..... the plot reverts to "Millie"!!

This was the year Mary Carlisle was selected as a WAMPAS Baby but her roles were spotty and in "Her Mad Night" she may have been given her most demanding role - after that she was to be Bing Crosby's most popular leading lady as well as the lovely Ann Howes in "Palooka".
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Not one of the great films of the 1930s, that's for sure.
MartinHafer24 January 2014
If you want to see "Her Mad Night" (also known as "Held for Murder"), then you might be forced to see the DVD from Alpha Video. Usually their prints for old films are rather poor but this film is much worse--with poor sound and a horrible picture. It's fuzzy, choppy and dirty and just plain ugly.

The film is from a small studio and won't be mistaken for a product from MGM or Warner Brothers! It stars Irene Rich and Conway Tearle--two actors who very few folks would recognize today.

It begins on an ocean cruise. Steven Kennedy (Tearle) has met a woman aboard the ship, Joan (Rich), and impulsively asks her to marry him before the trip is complete. What he doesn't know is that Joan has been a kept woman and definitely has a past. When his 'friend' Schuyler tells him this, he tosses Schuyler out. Soon after this, Steven's sister, Connie, meets Joan and tells her that she is Schulyer's lover--wow, BOTH women have been involved with the same guy! And, both women become fast friends! There's another secret about these two women--but you'll have to see the film for yourself to find this out for yourself. Such things ARE possible in the world of Pre-code films (before the censors put a stop to such goings on in mid-1934).

When Connie learns that Schuyler has information he can use to blackmail Joan, she goes to his apartment and pretends to be interested in him. She really is just looking for the incriminating evidence. But, the creep tries to rape Connie--and she shoots him! Joan arrives and tells Connie to run. When the police arrive, they accuse Joan and, oddly, Joan doesn't tell them the truth. Instead she takes the rap--because she has a secret!!! In many ways, this film seems like an odd reworking of the old film "Madame X". However, it suffers from poor acting from Tearle as well as a twist that seemed ridiculously impossible. Not a terrible film but it could have been better and lacked originality.
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Superior Performances Make A Surprisingly Good Poverty Row Weeper
boblipton8 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
For a randomly-named, overwrought Poverty Row melodrama featuring overripe and miscast, immature talent, this movie hangs together pretty well.


Conway Tearle has been proposing to shipmate Irene Rich twenty times, and every time she has turned him down. The he tells her the story of how his friend's wife ran out on him and their infant daughter. The friend left Tearle the daughter's guardian and went off and drank himself to death. Miss Rich agrees to marry him.

We see Tearle meet his ward, the miscast Mary Carlisle. She's a young hellion with a collection of keys to an assortment of bachelor's apartments, none of which she has ever used. She's being pursued by Tearle's friend, Kenneth Thomson, Rich's former inamorata, who gives her a key to add to her collection; she's about to head off for a respectable worldwide cruise with friends. When Thomson finds out whom Tearle is going to marry, he hints strongly about her past, but he's all for her Tearle throws him out. Miss Riich and Miss Carlisle meet and hit it off. They discuss the situation, and that Thomson has an incriminating letter from Miss Rich. Miss Rich goes to Tearle and convinces him that Thomson was lying. Miss Carlisle goes to Thomson's apartment to find the letter and stabs him accidentally. Miss Rich shows up immediately afterwards. Mr. Thomson tells her it's only a scratch, so she leaves to go on her cruise, and Miss Rich tells him she is not going to let her daughter be ruined as she was. At this point, the police break in. Thomson is dead and Miss Rich is on trial for her life.


As I said at the start, it's overwrought. Most of the talent barely got out of the sound era before they wound up on Poverty Row, doing their poor best with subpar material. Yet, with all the strikes against it, everyone does a job that makes it hang together in a convincing manner. It never did and never will win any awards, but it will provide an hour or so of weepy entertainment for anyone who is looking for such.
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Above average soaper, a bit different for films of this genre.
mark.waltz9 June 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Going down Helen Twelvetrees/Ruth Chatterton territory, Irene Rich is a lady with a past in this "B" pre-code mother love drama about a woman who discovers that her potential stepdaughter is really the illegitimate baby she gave up for adoption. (Somehow, she recognizes her from a baby photo her attorney fiancée shows her!) This leads to her ending up on trial for murder with the possibility of receiving the death penalty when her ex-lover (who also happens to be her fiancée's long-time best friend!) becomes involved with the stepdaughter. (His? The real father is never revealed.) The acting is pretty solid considering the year (a lot of films prior to 1933, especially from the poverty row studios, have the actors speaking oh, so slowly...) An interesting twist has Rich on death row with all male inmates as the script rushes to its finale in typical "Madame X"/"Secret of Madame Blanche"/"Confession" fashion. Rich gives a truly sincere performance, and you'll find yourself routing for her (and possibly chewing your nails!) until the surprising finale which manages to be poignant yet not weepy.
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Once heartfelt is now camp
dbborroughs6 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Creaky melodrama about a long chain of unreal circumstances that put an innocent woman on the path to the electric chair. Its all to do with bad choices and a mothers love (Mother tries to save the daughter she gave up long ago and all but forgot when a murder occurs).

Its a tough haul since the plot was out of date when the film was made. It doesn't help that the performances are a bit over the top. I found myself giggling. Its the sort of film that may have played okay for a brief period upon its release, but which over the years has drifted more and more i to the realm of camp. Really not my cup of tea.

3 out 10
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