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This movie, a warmup for Stanwyck and Fonda for the later The Lady Eve, is entirely enjoyable. A lighthearted piece of fluff, true, but everybody is having such a good time that it becomes totally infectious. Stanwyck, a rich deb, while walking her dogs in the middle of night, stumbles over a murdered man who disappears when she summons the police, of course. Fonda, a news editor/reporter, castigates her in print, and she threatens to sue. They, in the time-honored tradition of Hollywood comedy/mysteries, jointly, and sometimes separately and at loggers head, try to solve the mystery and find the murderer. Stanwyck is aided by a cohort of fellow debutantes, who do things helter-skelter en masse. The scene when Stanwyck sics 'em on Fonda ("Get him, girls"), with Fonda crawfishing as they advance, alone is worth the price of admission, as is the final avowal of love and proposal of marriage.
This is one pip of a movie, that is definitely funnier now in the age of political correctness. An obscure comedy that truly utilizes all the cast members involved in a great screwball of a movie. If you truly are a movie buff and love the classics, this is one movie you must find and watch for yourself. Some exceptionally classic lines that are true today as they were back in 1938.
This is a delightful comedy/mystery, very much of its time, starring
Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. Stanwyck does a great job as a madcap
socialite (though the title would have you think she's a crazy bag
lady) who gets involved in a murder and with reporter Fonda. Miss
Manton has a mouthy maid played by Hattie McDaniel (listed as McDaniels
in the credits) and many girlfriends, all of whom are at her beck and
Stanwyck's gift for comedy is apparent, and Manton was a perfect character for her - sophisticated, clever, and vulnerable. Fonda is very juvenile and ardent. They make a great pair.
I sI saw this on TV when I was young and, though it was trumpeted as
hilarious, I didn't like it. Now, I have seen 30 or more movies of
around the same period that combine romance, comedy, and mystery. And I
have grown to appreciate Barbara Stanwyck as one of the great stars in
Hollywood's history. So: I really enjoyed it a lot.
Stanwyck, as the title character, is mad only in the sense of madcap. Probably it is a matter of alliteration more than anything else. Henry Fonda is fun as the newspaper man who hates and then falls for her.
A few years later, they were to be teamed again in Preston Sturges's great "The Lady Eve."
The subway is a good gimmick, and all the minor players are fun. Miss Manton, or as we'd say today Ms. Manton, has a whole crew of gal-pals, who scream and giggle and make the whole affair very lively indeed.
Barbara Stanwyck was 31 years old playing opposite stone-faced 33 year old Henry Fonda in this comedy love story/murder mystery, and if you want to see how Barbara steals every scene, this is a good one to watch. This movie was selected by TCM as one of the films to highlight for their series "Black Images in Hollywood" due to the presence of Hattie McDaniel just prior to her Oscar-winning performance the next year in "Gone With the Wind." Hattie plays a sassy-talking maid for delicious comic relief. But it's a small role for Hattie and the main focus is on the delightful Barbara. There is an interesting scene at the end of the movie which foretells the use of S.W.A.T. teams today in both the cinema and on the streets. All in all, this is a pleasant movie to while away an afternoon with a friend, and who knows, you may even want to re-visit it again in a few years.
I think this may be Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck's first movie together and sparks fly. The dialog is fast and witty. The actual mystery shown in the movie is irrelevant. If you like films from the 30's and have already seen the classics such as The Lady Eve and Palm Beach Story, then definitely see this. I wish Henry Fonda had done more comedy but he makes up for lost time here. Unlike The Lady Eve, where he is primarily the straight man (with terrific physical comedy), in the Mad Miss Manton he gives as good as he gets with his leading lady. I don't know why this movie doesn't get more attention. I think it is a lot funnier than "The Male Animal". For another comedic effort of Fonda's, watch Tales of Manhattan. He has a gem of a scene with Ginger Rogers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was one of many Hollywood films of the 1930s that tried to cash in
on the Nick and Nora Charles phenomenon. Americans loved the Thin Man
movies and so there were many similar films, such as this film. THE MAD
MISS MANTON was similar to the Thin Man films because it relied heavily
on sophisticated comedy and the actual murder plot was, at best,
secondary. Plus, like Nick Charles, Miss Manton was a rich society
Since the plot isn't exactly relevant, the repartee between Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda is excellent and a lot of fun to watch. In particular, I liked the scene when they first met--she slapped him and without any hesitation, he slapped her right back! In addition to their wonderful scenes together, Hattie McDaniel was excellent in a supporting role. Instead of the usual Black maid part, she was very sassy and smart--dishing it out every bit as well as anyone else! So if you are looking for a fun "turn off your brain and just enjoy" film from Hollywood's Golden Age, look no further. You're bound to enjoy this film immensely--provided you don't worry about the unnecessary details (such as the plot or how unbelievably stupid the cops are in the film).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1941, Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck starred in 'The Lady Eve'
(one of the finest comedies of all time) but before this Fonda and
Stanwyck made a relatively unknown comedy called 'The Mad Miss Manton'
and may I say that this is an excellent lead-up to 'The Lady Eve'.
The dialogue (written by the supremely witty Philip G. Epstein) sparkles and goes so fast that it takes a second viewing to get all the jokes. And in an age of political correctness the dialogue is even funnier. Dora's quip about communism (Helen:"If the upstairs has to be searched, we'll search it together"-Dora:"Why that's communism!") is just so unexpected. Unlike the Lady Eve, where Fonda is primarily the straight guy, in 'Mad Miss Manton' he holds his own and is especially good in the hospital scene, where he plays Stanwyck for the sucker. Apparently, Fonda hated making this film and being ambushed by gaggle of girls would certainly put a dent in your pride.
On the whole, an excellent but unfortunately unknown film. If you are planning to see "The Lady Eve' do try and see this film because it is truly a gem in the Screwball genre.
In the first of their three co-starring vehicles, Barbara Stanwyck and
Henry Fonda shine in character clashing along with many illustrious
supporting players in this Golden Era madcap Murder Mystery Comedy.
"The Mad Miss Manton" (RKO, 1938) follows the saga of wealthy débutante Melsa Manton (Barbara Stanwyck) and Hilda (Hattie McDaniel), her efficient housekeeper.
Add to the program seven débutantes abiding in the lap of luxury, and supporting their comrade in society: Helen Frayne (Frances Mercer) Pat James (Whitney Bourne) Myra Frost (Linda Perry) Kit Beverly (Vickie Lester) Jane (Eleanor Hansen) Dora Fenton (Catherine O'Quinn) Lee Wilson (Ann Evers).
Peter Ames (Henry Fonda), an ambitious newspaper reporter, Lieutenant Brent (Sam Levene) and Officer Sullivan (James Burke), who are all summoned to investigate the murder of a wealthy business leader, whose body unaccountably disappears, while another mysteriously surfaces.
When Peter and Lieutenant Brent charge Miss Manton and her ilk of lovely Park Avenue débutantes with attempting to pull a prank, Melsa decides to take matters into her own very capable hands, with help from her associates, who, if you read between the lines, may be considered to exhibit characteristics of the Seven Capital Vices.
Although these are not quite developed during its 108-minute screen story, traces of Avarice, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Pride, Sloth and Wrath are detectable among the fashionable set of peers.
One often expresses her anger toward the behavior of the establishment. One constantly searches for snacks. One devotes her attention to the gentlemen in her sight. Another sort of lies around without much to do, as others bathe in wealth and pride of their collective station in life, and so forth and so on.
Suspects for the film's central crime display effective performances in well-cast roles, most bringing familiarity to the screen: Bat Regan (Paul Guilfoyle) Sheila Lane (Leona Maricle) Ronnie Beldon (William Corson) Edward Norris (Stanley Ridges) Frances Glesk (Penny Singleton) Mr. Fred Thomas (Miles Mander) and Gloria Hamilton (Kay Sutton).
Rounding out "The Mad Miss Manton" cast includes some familiar faces, each bringing a special quality to an all-too-brief scene along the way: John Qualen as the Subway Watchman Robert Middlemass as the District Attorney Grady Sutton as the D.A.'s Secretary Olin Howland as Mr. X Charles Halton as Popsy, Melsa's Lawyer Vinton Haworth as Peter's Secretary Irving Bacon as Mr. Spengler, the Process Server Bess Flowers as a Charity Ball Guest and Gerald Pierce as the Newsboy.
Barbara Stanwyck in another "I saw the body until it disappeared" kind of
farce, giving the audience a good time as she tangles with unbelieving
police inspector (Sam Levene) and a newspaper reporter looking for a good
story (Henry Fonda).
The supporting cast includes Hattie McDaniel and Penny Singleton but it's Stanwyck's performance that makes this one shine. Henry Fonda plays another variation on his mild-mannered dunce but it's Stanwyck who keeps the dialogue snappy and the events somewhat believable.
It's a wacky blend of comedy and mystery with a denouement that is less than satisfying as none of the supporting characters are more than cardboard stereotypes. Passes the time pleasantly enough, but don't expect anything great.
Stanwyck gets the glamour treatment and looks her best in the madcap title role.
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