Stanwyck’s part was originally meant for Katharine Hepburn, but Bringing Up Baby’s bad box office put the kibosh on that, though of course nowadays it’s hailed as a classic. Besides, things worked out fine for Hepburn, as she moved on to her Oscar-nominated performance in The Philadelphia Story (1940), among so many other triumphs. In any case, Stanwyck’s flair for comedy is just right for her role as Melsa Manton, madcap heiress extraordinaire. That’s my favorite kind of heiress, especially if she’d like to plunk a few bucks into my pocket during one of her charity scavenger hunts!
Barnard; Bryn Mawr; Mount Holyoke; Radcliffe; Smith; Vassar; and Wellesley. Of course, this being a Hollywood movie, another “sister” was added. That’s Hollywood for you, always making everything bigger and bolder!
We first meet Melsa walking a gaggle of cute little dogs at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m.; is this how our pet-loving heroine makes extra spending money, or does she prefer to take her pets walkies when the neighbors are in bed, unaware Melsa’s pooches are leaving, er, souvenirs? She notices Rex Realty signs plastered all over the house. Turns out it belongs to Sheila Lane (Leona Maricle, who’d also worked with Stanwyck in My Reputation), the wife of wealthy banker George Lane. Suddenly a car speeds past the site of the new subway. Melsa recognizes local gent Ronnie Belden (William Corson). Unlike the usual stereotype of New Yorkers who mind their own business, Melsa lets her curiosity get the best of her. Her impromptu investigation brings her to the deserted Lane house, where she finds a diamond brooch—and Lane’s bloodied body! As she flees in panic, Melsa drops the brooch. By the time Melsa gets ahold of Lieutenant Mike Brent (Team Bartilucci fave Sam Levene from The Killers; After The Thin Man; Shadow of The Thin Man; Last Embrace), the corpse has gone AWOL.
|Don’t worry about the press as long as|
they spell your name right!
- Frances Mercer as Helen Frayne, the most sensible of Melsa’s gorgeous friends. The daughter of prominent East Coast sportswriter Sid Mercer, the raven-haired beauty was a “Powers Girl” model in New York in her teens back in the 1930s (as were my dear mom and aunt. Wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall with those gals swapping stories). Mercer went on to act and sing on stage, screen, and TV, including the Broadway musicals All the Things you Are; Very Warm for May; and Something for the Boys.
- Kay Sutton as Gloria Hamilton. This lovely brunette’s screen credits include Carefree; The Saint in New York; Vivacious Lady. Gloria gets a nice punch line when the girls find what may or may not be bodily fluids:
Dora: “How can that be blood? It’s blue.”
Gloria: “Maybe he shot Mrs. Astor.”
- Catherine O’Quinn as ditzy Dora Fenton. I’m almost certain O’Quinn is one of the blonde Goldwyn Girls in Team Bartilucci fave The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947). Anyway, she gets some delightful lines here, especially this TMMM bit, which becomes a running gag:
Melsa: “Helen, you search the upstairs.”
Helen: “Oh, no, I was never much of an individualist. If the upstairs has to be searched, we’ll search it together.”
Dora: “Why, that’s Communism!”
- Whitney Bourne, as Pat James (Blind Alibi; Double Danger; Beauty for the Asking, with Lucille Ball)), who never saw a snack she didn’t like, even at a murder scene! I’m sure Lt. Brent is thrilled to see his crime scene ruined. Hey, Pat, you gonna finish that? Don’t your rich parents feed you at home, you poor little rich girl you?
Ann Evers as Lee Wilson (If I Were King; Gunga Din; Casanova Brown).
- Linda Perry, billed here as Linda Terry. By any name, she plays Myra Frost, Melsa’s flirty friend. Ms. Perry’s credits include They Won’t Forget; The Great Garrick; and the 1937 movie adaptation of the Perry Mason film The Case of the Stuttering Bishop.
- Vickie Lester (billed as Vicki Lester) as Kit Beverly. Vickie’s star was born in Tom, Dick, and Harry; Tall, Dark, and Handsome; The Great Plane Robbery.
- Eleanor Hanson as Jane. (Guess it's one of those one-word names, like Margo or Annabella.) She also appeared in the Western Flaming Frontiers and bit parts such films as The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, and worked again with TMMM co-star Penny Singleton in Blondie Goes to College. Wonder if Singleton and Hansen ever reminisced about making TMMM?
|One stiff, hold the mayo!|
Kit (talking to Hilda with her mouth full): “Have you another piece of cake, Hilda?”
Hilda: “Yes, I have, but the kitchen’s closed for the night.”
Hilda: “I didn’t ask her up!”
Melsa (giving Hilda a wry look): “In my house, the revolution is here!”
|Who needs Charlie's Angels|
with 8 crimefighting debs?
“Lt. Brent, the good news is we’ve found George Lane’s body. The bad news…er….”
|Blondie Beats a Murder Rap!|
|Lt. Brent saves the day! |
Who knew he was a counter spy?
Here's a link to our pal Dawn Sample's great Noir and Chick Flicks blog post from 2011!
|I knew those crazy kids would make beautiful music together!|
|You say you want a revolution? |
Hilda's your go-to gal!
This is a fun film though of the three films Fonda and Stanwyck made I rank THE LADY EVE at the top. That does not take anything away from this film since EVE sets the bar pretty high. I didn't know Hepburn was originally scheduled for the part (It's hard to believe BRINGING UP BABY tanked at the BO) but Stanwyck is wonderful. The script is a bit manufactured but the dialogue is so sharp that you really don't mind. Overall it's a delightful film, as is your review.ReplyDelete
John, while I agree that THE LADY EVE is the champ among Stanwyck and Fonda's three comedies (or so I'm told, since I haven't had an chance to see YOU BELONG TO ME yet :-)), THE MAD MISS MANTON is a most entertaining appetizer to the delicious dinner course of THE LADY EVE! I'm a sucker for witty repartee, and there's certainly plenty of it in TMMM. It also contains one of my favorite bits:Delete
Peter Ames (Fonda): "We'll go to South America for 6 months. Maybe we'll never come back!"
Melsa Manton (Stanwyck): "Can you afford it?"
Peter: "No, but you can."
Melsa: "Isn't there a drop of red blood in your veins? I want to live on your income!"
Peter: "That's foolish; who's going to live on yours?"
Maybe it's just the smart and snappy delivery, but that bit always cracks me up! :-) Many thanks for your praise, John, as always!
I caught YOU BELONG TO ME a few years ago on TCM It's worth a look just because Fonda and Stanwyck are in it but definitely the weakest and most dated of the three.Delete
I call foul! I only caught the title of this post and I thought you had been fortunate to score a copy of the 1942 Andrews Sisters film of the same name (Swing Out, Sisters!). You're such a tease, Dor.ReplyDelete
Sorry, Ivan, didn't mean to be a tease! Heck, I wouldn't mind coming across The Andrews Sisters SWING OUT, SISTERS myself; Mom loved them! Anyway, I hope you'll check out THE MAD MISS MANTON; it's good zany, soignee fun, even without Patty, Maxine, and Laverne! :-)Delete
I adore Stanwyck & Fonda in this movie and was surprised to read that Fonda wasn't thrilled to be in it. And thanks for including the "Debutante Roll Call" - I was curious to know who some of those debs were!ReplyDelete
Ruth, I'm happy to hear you enjoy TMMM as much as I do. I'm glad Fonda and Stanwyck became great friends after all; they had great chemistry! Maybe Fonda loosened up after his rave reviews in THE GRAPES OF WRATH, and he was able to enjoy himself more in his subsequent comedies with Babs and Hank, leading to a lifelong friendship! :-) Thanks for your positive feedback about the lovely ladies playing Melsa's gal pals, too; as Orson Welles and others once said, "A great cast is worth repeating!" :-)Delete
A very entertaining review, Dorian, with fabulous background details (e.g., the Seven Sisters). As for TMMM, who wouldn't delight in seeing a "gaggle of cute little dogs" at three in the morning? As a canine lover, count me in!ReplyDelete
Rick, thanks for your enthusiastic praise for my TMMM post and my little details! I love dogs, but alas, I'm too allergic and on too tight a budget to own a pooch these days. Luckily, I can still enjoy dogs vicariously through friendly neighbors and films like TMMM! :-)Delete
This here one has slipped by me, but thanks to your inspired - well, I thought it was inspiring - review, I hope to catch "The Mad Miss Manton" as soon as possible. It sounds like something I would enjoy. Thank you for your delightful take on the film.
Ken, thanks so much for your kind praise of my TMMM review! I hope you get to catch up with it soon; I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do!Delete
DorianTB, Thank you... so much, for the shout out and I have enjoyed reading your take on the film too. I would have liked to have seen TMMM again.. It has been awhile..ReplyDelete
You are so right about owning a dog.. which these days has become a luxury item..
Dawn, my friend and fellow frustrated dog-lover, many thanks for your shoutout and positive feedback on my TMMM post! At least we can enjoy Melsa Manton's adorable pooches on TCM every so often! :-)Delete
In case I haven't mentioned it lately, I'm so happy your health has been improving! Love your latest Betty Boop avatar, too!
Saw this one a while ago, I should really re watch it, after reading this. Great post, you really do it up with great comedies it's no secret I love a little background, history and bio details with my reviews and you do a lot of that here with the fun fact, and especially the debs' list, very interesting info there. (Debbie Harry! snort.now you'll have to put together a fantasy cast of rocker chicks.. stevie, ann & nancy) Nothing beats LADY EVE, I agree, but this is a fun one, I can't imagine it with Hepburn for some reason. Thanks for another good one!!ReplyDelete
Kristina, thanks muchly for your TMMM rave! I'm delighted that you enjoyed my fun facts, especially about our heroine's debutante pals. Director Leigh Jason had joked that with the large cast of gorgeous gals, he'd considered just putting numbers on the girls' backs. I'm glad they chose instead to give the gals jokes and bits of business to spotlight their humor and personality; more fun that way for everyone! :-)Delete
Now I'm getting a kick out of imagining Debbie, Stevie, Ann & Nancy in a rocker remake of TMMM! Thanks, my friend; you always leave me smiling! :-)
Really fun review ... will have to add this to my growing list of must-sees. It sounds like I would enjoy it :)ReplyDelete
Thanks for your swell feedback, CFB! I definitely think TMMM would be right up your alley! Also, I just discovered on the TCM Web site that TMMM will air on TCM again in November! Save the date:Delete
THE MAD MISS MANTON, Saturday, November 24th 2012 at 9:15 A.M. EST
Mark your calendars and set your DVRs, CFB and friends! THE MAD MISS MANTON will soon be back in town! :-)
Ever since reading the recent Stany bio 'The Miracle Woman,' I've been wanting to see more of her 30s movies. This one sounds particularly funny.ReplyDelete
There was a real Vicki Lester? Next you'll be telling me there was a real Norman Maine too. :-p
Rich, I was as surprised to hear of the real-life actress Vicki Lester as you were! No word on a real-life Norman Maine yet. :-)Delete
I think you'd get a kick out of TMMM. Come November, get your DVR ready for screwball comedy fun and suspense at 9:15 a.m. on November 24th on TCM, and start your morning off right! :-)
I love Sam Levene! I love him in anything. I haven't seen this movie in ages but I remember it - you know how my memory picks and chooses, well it chooses to remember this one.ReplyDelete
I like all the ditzy debs and love Barbara Stanwyck. Not crazy about Henry Fonda, never have been, but he's good in this.
A very fun movie for any Fall night. Why that should be I don't know, but there are certain movies which appeal to me when the air starts getting cooler. This is one of them.
Thanks for another great and informative post, Dorian.
Yvette, I'm glad to hear that your pick-and-choose memory chose to remember THE MAD MISS MANTON! :-) I agree with you that TMMM is "A very fun movie for any Fall night!" I'm tempted to kick back with a hot cocoa full of marshmallows and kick back with TMMM again - then I'm heading right over to your swell blog ...IN SO MANY WORDS to read and enjoy your Forgotten/Overlooked list of 12 Favorite Films Set in New York City! Check it out, everyone:Delete
Thanks for your enthusiastic praise for my TMMM post, Yvette! You're truly a sugar bowl with two handles, my friend! :-)
I'm surprised at myself, but I have never watched this one! I don't know why -- somehow it just never seemed interesting, but it does now. I'm not a huge fan of screwball comedy, so I probably eyed it with prejudice! It sounds like fun, though, the way you tell it, so I'll have to give it a try. Dorian, it's great to be back and reading your great blog.ReplyDelete
Becky, my friend, the feeling is "moochal," to quote your beloved YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN! Welcome back, dear pal! We've all missed you!Delete
You're right that occasionally a well-meaning screwball comedy can overdo it, becoming more frantic and confusing than actually funny, but in my opinion, TMMM hits all the right comedy-mystery notes, with Barbara Stanwyck at her magical, comical best! Tune in on November 24th on TCM and have breakfast with Miss Manton and the rest of the movie's likable zanies! Would I steer you wrong? :-)
I need to re-see this one too, it's been ages since I've seen it. I loved the short write-ups of the actresses playing the debutantes. I liked Kay Sutton in "The Saint in New York" and always wondered about any other roles.ReplyDelete
Anyway, it sounds like a marvelous film, and I will be on the look out for it.
Kevin, many thanks for your positive TMMM review! With your swell taste in classic movies, I definitely think you'll enjoy this zany little gem when it turns up on TCM again on November 24th! :-)Delete