The Mad Miss Manton

One of the best things about the Hollywood studio system is that it offers a chance to see great stars paired up in more than one picture.  Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck appeared in 3 films together, including Preston Sturges’ masterpiece, “The Lady Eve” in 1941.  Their first film together, “The Mad Miss Manton” from 1938, features Stanwyck as Melsa Manton, a socialite who can’t help sticking her nose into police business — including a murder investigation.

Barbara Stanwyck as Miss Manton.

Miss Manton leads a fearless gang of a half-dozen fur-coated debutantes ready to solve any mystery, and use their trusty flashlights to complete several break-ins looking for evidence.  The annoyed police force, led by a the wise-cracking Sam Levine, uses idle threats to keep the ladies away from crime scenes, such as saying, “Stay out of it!”  But the determined Stanwyck and her gang hang around long enough to solve the crime.

Henry Fonda plays Peter Ames, an ineffectual newspaper editor who provides the love interest for Miss Manton.  Even though the two stars provide enough chemistry, the script makes it seem unlikely Ames and Manton would ever become a pair.  The studio, RKO Radio Pictures, offered the film to Katherine Hepburn, which would have given us a Henry Fonda-Katherine Hepburn pairing years before 1981’s “On Golden Pond.”

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