Screwball comedy

Today’s Zippy, another installment in the Barbara Stanwyck retrospective (Stella Dallas (1937) here, Double Indemnity (1944) here):

Zippy and Zerbina are coping with the plot of the alliterative The Mad Miss Manton of 1938.

From Wikipedia:

The Mad Miss Manton is a 1938 screwball comedy and mystery film starring Barbara Stanwyck as fun-loving socialite Melsa Manton [more Ms!] and Henry Fonda as newspaper editor Peter Ames. Melsa and her debutante friends hunt for a murderer while eating bonbons, flirting with Ames, and otherwise behaving like silly young women. Ames is also after the murderer, as well as Melsa’s hand in marriage.

This was the first of three screen pairings for Stanwyck and Fonda, the others being The Lady Eve and You Belong to Me.

At 3:00 am, Melsa (Barbara Stanwyck) takes her little dogs for a walk. Near a subway construction site, she sees Ronnie Belden run out of a house and drive away. The house is for sale by Sheila Lane (Leona Maricle), the wife of George Lane, a wealthy banker. Inside, Melsa finds a diamond brooch and Mr. Lane’s dead body. As she runs for help, her cloak falls off with the brooch inside it. When the police arrive, the body, cloak, and brooch are gone. Melsa and her friends are notorious pranksters, so the detective, Lieutenant Mike Brent (Levene), does nothing to investigate the murder. Ames writes an editorial decrying Melsa’s “prank”, and she sues him for libel.

Melsa and her friends decide they must find the murderer in order to defend their reputation. The resulting manhunt includes searches of the Lane house, Belden’s apartment, Lane’s business office, and all of the local beauty shops; two attempts to intimidate Melsa; two shooting attempts on her life; a charity ball; and a trap set for the murderer using Melsa as bait. During this time, the women twice attack Ames and tie him up, Melsa’s friend Myra enthusiastically flirts with Ames, and their friend Pat eats incessantly

… During the film, the relationship between Melsa and Ames evolves from sharp animosity to love and marital engagement. Melsa appears to be hostile toward Ames during most of the film, while he almost immediately decides that he’s going to marry her and begins to woo her aggressively. She stabs him in the leg with a fork in retaliation for a treacherous trick he played on her, but they have a friendly chat early in the story, and a longer, more heart-to-heart conversation later. After the police rescue them from Norris, the film ends with Melsa and Ames planning their honeymoon.

Stabbing him in the leg with a fork is an especially nice detail.

On screwball comedy, from Wikipedia:

The screwball comedy is a principally American genre of comedy film that became popular during the Great Depression, originating in the early 1930s and thriving until the early 1940s. Many secondary characteristics of this genre are similar to the film noir, but it distinguishes itself for being characterized by a female that dominates the relationship with the male central character, whose masculinity is challenged. Other elements are fast-pace repartee, farcical situations, escapist themes, and plot lines involving courtship and marriage. Screwball comedies often depict social classes in conflict, as in It Happened One Night (1934) and My Man Godfrey (1936).

While we’re on the topic of Barbara Stanwyck, here’s a comment from Ann Burlingham on Facebook, with a Stanwyckian verbing:

Granted it’s a movie script, but watching Barbara Stanwyck in WITNESS TO MURDER, someone asks about her missing a meal, and she verbs away: “I’ll drugstore it on my way home.” First time I’ve ever heard the verb “to drugstore,” but of course it was immediately understandable and perfectly reasonable for 1954.

In 1954, when drugstores had lunch counters.

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