Sunday, November 26, 2017

Henry Fonda Plays It For Laughs

Saturday night, November 25th.  I was watching TCM (Turner Classic Movies) to catch its Saturday edition of "The Essentials."  Saturday at 8p Eastern, host Alec Baldwin presents classic movies that must be watched by anyone who is a classic film enthusiast.  With Baldwin is a guest co-host.  On Saturday, TCM repeated THE LADY EVE.  Baldwin's presentation on "The Essentials" had guest co-host Tina Fey.  I didn't see the original broadcast.  I was on the road.  Tina mentioned that she was surprised to see Henry Fonda in a comedy.  She really mainly knew him from THE GRAPES OF WRATH.  She loved seeing him with Barbara Stanwyck in THE LADY EVE.  Who wouldn't?  This classic has made me laugh ever since I was a school kid who discovered it on local KTLA, Channel 5 during my summer vacations.  I love 1941's THE LADY EVE from director/screenwriter Preston Sturges.
Alec Baldwin didn't mention it, but the Preston Sturges classic was the second comedy that Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda had made together.  Their first was 1938's THE MAD MISS MANTON.  She played a madcap socialite informs the cops that she has discovered a dead body.  Then the body disappears.  The New York newspapers and the police think a prank was involved and she's personally taken to task in an editorial.  She and the writer get involved and, with the help of friends, Miss Manton is out to solve a murder mystery.
Hattie McDaniel is in the movie too for some extra laughs.
For 20th Century Fox, Henry Fonda starred in RINGS ON HER FINGERS with Gene Tierney.  This 1942 comedy has Tierney as a gum-chewing department store clerk who sounds like she just got off the uptown local from Brooklyn.
She wishes she could afford the kind of fine clothing and accessories she sells.  A couple of con artists make her dream come true by hooking the innocent shopgirl into a scam they run to connect dames to marry a millionaire.  Henry Fonda is the clueless guy they're after.  Of course, he falls for the gorgeous Gene and she falls for him.  RINGS ON HER FINGERS is sort a discount THE LADY EVE.  Fonda, Tierney, Spring Byington and Laird Cregar were directed by Rouben Mamoulian.
Fonda and Tierney are fun together.  My favorite scene is when the shopgirl and the rather stiff fellow take to a dance floor.  He's as straight as a stick, not responding to the hot rhythm.  All of a sudden, he breaks out into a wild jitterbug for almost half a minute.
Here's further proof that Henry Fonda definitely had comedy chops when they were needed.
THE MAGNIFICENT DOPE is another 1942 comedy Henry Fonda did for Fox.  It's a little-known film but my favorite Fonda comedy after THE LADY EVE.  He's such a lovable dork in THE MAGNIFICENT DOPE.  Don Ameche stars as a hotshot Manhattan motivational speaker.  But his company is doing so well.  He's a real high-energy, "glad to see ya" type.  And a huckster. He concocts a national contest to find the biggest failure.  He will bring that failure to New York City and motivate him to be a success.  He'll use the failure to increase his Manhattan business.  Well...Tad Page is the wide-eyed dope who wins the contest.  He comes to New York City and his low-key, small town approach to life's frustrations becomes so popular that he not only attracts more followers than the motivational speaker, he also attracts the speaker's girlfriend.
And there you have it.  Just a little movie info about comedies starring Henry Fonda.  Tell Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin.

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