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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Classic Film Review: The Mad Miss Manton (1938)

The Mad Miss Manton is a madcap film that stars Barbara Stanwyck as Melsa Manton, a socialite known for her pranks to police. However, when she finds a dead body (and the dead body disappears) the police are angry with her for wasting their time and she enlists her group of friends to help her prove there was a body - but all doesn't go to plan. She is faced with irate police officer Lieutenant Brent (Sam Levene) and journalist Peter Ames (Henry Fonda) who quickly falls in love with her but is still all for letting the police deal with the investigation.

This film's tricky. It obviously doesn't take itself too seriously and goes for the laughs whenever it can but there is still a murder at the heart of it and one of the final scenes between Melsa and the killer seems far too dark for the ending of such a film. The murder mystery aspect is also a bit convoluted with more faces than necessary put into the picture at one point. Without proper guidance, I was a bit confused about what was going on when Melsa was shot at.

The 'group' of socialite friends Melsa assembled was possibly too large - sometimes they blended into each other and their personalities on the whole seemed far too similar. However, Levene and Fonda as Brent and Ames raised the film a little with their distinctive personalities. Levene particularly added much amusement to the film, though I was slightly sick of his predictable reactions by the time the credits rolled.

However, that's not to say that The Mad Miss Manton isn't a funny film. It is. This was my first introduction to Barbara Stanwyck and it was a relatively good one. Melsa's a strong character, dominant over those around her, with the exception of her maid Hilda (Hattie McDaniel). I also liked the twist of Melsa and her friends 'proving' something only for it to backfire. All in all, this was an enjoyable comedy, hardly ground-breaking but entertaining enough for a lazy afternoon.

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