The Mad Miss Manton, dir. Leigh Jason
starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda
Recommended | Highly Recommended | MUST-SEE
Before I began the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project, I reviewed and fell in love with The Mad Miss Manton, giving it a “Super Five” (5/5!) rating. The film follows Melsa Manton (Stanwyck), a socialite who is enjoying a late-night walk home from a costume party when she finds a dead body.
When the police arrive, the body has mysteriously disappeared. The police believe the call was a hoax, and Peter Ames (Henry Fonda) publishes a front-page editorial calling Melsa out as a prankster. To clear her name and figure out what really happened, Melsa enlists the help of seven of her best friends to solve the case.
The Mad Miss Manton is a wonderful mystery-comedy, genuinely mysterious and very fun to watch. The cast is great, and all of the excitement promised by the premise is delivered.
Contemporary reviews of this film are hard to track down, hidden behind paywalls or not re-published online at all. All of the discussion I was able to find of the film came from Photoplay Magazine, with several mentions made throughout 1938 and 1939. The film was name-dropped in two fashion features prior to its release, as well as in an article about the studios focusing on action flicks and children’s movies. (Miss Manton, with plenty of women in its cast, was pointed out as an exception.)
Photoplay seems to have loved the film as much as I do, once they finally reviewed it. It was named one of the month’s best “now-playing” pictures upon its release, with the review praising the film’s “fresh” dialogue and “well turned” plot.
Later, the film ended up on Photoplay‘s list of “Outstanding Pictures of 1938.” And outstanding, it certainly is!