Tuesday, August 19, 2014

MANTRAP: WARNING! CLARA BOW USES WEAPONS OF MASS SEDUCTION!

This is my entry in the Build Your Own Blogathon, hosted by The Classic Film & TV Cafe, featuring 20 bloggers over 20 days.

MANTRAP
Alverna does her daily flirting exercises. A girls has to keep in shape!
No, Clara Bow is not the mantrap of the title (yeah right). Mantrap is the name of the little Canadian outpost where our story takes place. It's a simple story. In New York City, divorce attorney Ralph Prescott (Percy Marmont) has developed a distinct dislike for the opposite sex (agreeing that his client's husband was right to beat her – grrr… we already don’t like him). His buddy, hosiery salesman Woodbury (Eugene Pallette) suggests that what they both need is some male-bonding time in the wilderness. Prissy Ralph agrees and off they set to mantrap for some fishing, hunting and, presumably, belching.

Prescott and Woodbury:City Boys Gone Wild
Meanwhile, in Mantrap, good-hearted merchant Joe Easter (Ernest Torrence) is lonely for female companionship and decides to take a trip to Minneapolis to see what the big city has to offer. There, while getting spiffed up in a barber shop, he meets manicurist Alverna (Clara Bow). She's an adorable flirt, but senses that big-lug-small-town-Joe is a decent guy and agrees to meet him for dinner.


Next we catch up with campers Ralph and Woodbury, who are engaged in a fierce and juvenile battle over some wilderness supremacy. Joe happens upon the pair and figures the best way to solve the problem is to remove one of these citified gents from the fight. He offers to take Ralph back to his home in Mantrap for the rest of his vacation. Ralph agrees, thinking that is will be a blissful place to continue his pursuit of manly things without female interference.

Alverna and her 2 men - neither one quite worthy
This is when we find out that Joe has married Alverna. She greets her man at the dock and welcomes visitor Ralph with open arms. She is an incorrigible flirt, but before long she and Ralph do begin to have feelings for one another. After a spat with Joe, Alverna leaves with Ralph to head back to civilization. They endure a few hard nights in the wilderness (Alverna is more than up to the task and proves herself to be a tough survivor). Joe, frantic that Alverna has flown the coop, goes off after the couple in hot pursuit. Eventually he catches up to the bedraggled pair. While Ralph and Joe try to decide Alverna's fate, she declares that "no one is the boss of me," gets in Joe's motorboat and leaves both of those knuckleheads behind.

Alverna livens up the locals
Since this is Hollywood, alls well must end well. Fast forward a bit and Joe is still heartbroken over losing the flirtatious Alverna. His nasty neighbors try to tell him that he is well rid of the little baggage, but when she knocks on the door and declares she has missed her man, Joe welcomes her back with a grateful bear hug. Of course, when a manly Mountie happens by, Alverna can’t help but shift into flirt mode. But she asks Joe to keep an eye on her, just in case.
Clara Bow as 21 when "Mantrap" was made, but had already appeared in over 30 films. Given a good story and a great director, she rose to the occasion and set the screen on fire. Never was she more captivating and charismatic and beautiful. Director Victor Fleming was in love with Clara during this time and it is clear that he is truly besotted with his subject. Her close-ups are luminous. Publically, he compared Bow to a Stradivarius violin: "Touch her, and she responded with genius.” And what a genius – both Torrence and Marmont are hardly romantic ideals, yet Clara makes you believe that a girl like Alverna would actually give them a second look.

Lovebirds Clara Bow and Victor Fleming during the filming of "Mantrap."

He-man Fleming went gaga for Clara. Can you blame him?
"Mantrap" is based on a story by Sinclair Lewis which is apparently a misogynistic nightmare. However, in the hands of 2 female screen writers (Ethel Doherty and Adelaide Heilbron) and with the magical Clara at the forefront even that toughest of he-men directors Victor Fleming, could only see it Alverna’s way.

Clara Bow considered "Mantrap" to be her best silent film. I completely agree.

Impossible to resist



23 comments:

Beth Ann Gallagher said...

I'm happy you wrote about this movie! A lot of viewers who are intrigued by flappers and Clara Bow might overlook this movie due to its mostly rural setting, but then they'd miss what you correctly call one of her best films. It's amazing how Bow can play an immature young lady who abandons her husband and uses another man to get away, a character that could fall into unsympathetic to unlikable due to these actions if played by another actress, yet earns our understanding and sympathy AND still entertains us. The male actors do a fine job, too. It's good of you to promote this film!

Fritzi Kramer said...

I enjoyed this movie enormously. After years in the poverty row doldrums, Bow's talent absolutely pops!
(Can I mention that Clara Bow and Ernest Torrence are the oddest movie couple ever?)
In any case, thanks so much for sharing why this is one of Bow's best.

PS, thanks for choosing me to follow you :-)

Dawn said...

One of Clara best movies, Mantrap (1926), where she plays a girl from the big city of Minneapolis who's personality and stunning beauty that are the main focus of the film. if you are a Clara bow fan, this is definitely a film for you.

Caftan Woman said...

Clara is so appealing that she can get away with anything. What a wacky cast of fellows! An intriguing premise that I look forward to seeing. Thanks for this insightful review.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Beth Ann. I love this film because Clara just totally turns it on its ear and takes over everything and everybody.

FlickChick said...

Fritzi - after selecting Mantrap with Clara Bow how could I not toss it to you?

FlickChick said...

Dawn - so wonderful to have you back!

FlickChick said...

CW - aq great cast -AND - it takes place in Canada!!!!

Inge Gregusch said...

I've yet to see this movie, but recognize some of the stills. Clara Bow truly looks luminous, and her energy, humor and effervescent personality come through. Thanks for a terrific review--as always.

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Inge. This really is a must-see. If you ever saw Clara in anything else and thought she was great - this will knock your socks off.

Rick29 said...

I have not seen this Clara Bow pic nor its talkie remake (UNTAMED). I certainly need to address not having seen the original. I can't believe that Ms. Bow had made so many movies by 21 (just compare that to today's actors). I read where one of the taglines was: "Silken siren...with claws." Hey, it sounds like she's just a fflirt--perhaps an excessive one :) And let me go on record stating that Mantrap is a cool name for a town.

FlickChick said...

Rick - this really is a "must see" for anyone who appreciates Clara Bow. She made some many formula pics for Paramount. Here, for once, she got a different story and a great director (who happened to be in love with her) and she just glows.

said...

I think I need a better schooling about Clara Bow, sinc I'm not quite familiar with her films. When my Myrna Loys schooling is over, I'll focus on Clara and Mantrap will be firts in the list. And I'm glad we have Eugene Pallette here!
But I kind of feel bad for being 21 and not nearly as great as Clara :(
Kisses!

Su-sieee! Mac said...

I like how the women screenwriters turned Lewis' story so the woman has more dimensions to her. I could see how Clara Bow must've enjoyed this part.
The View from the Top of the Ladder

Su-sieee! Mac said...

I like how the women screenwriters turned Lewis' story so the woman has more dimensions to her. I could see how Clara Bow must've enjoyed this part.
The View from the Top of the Ladder

Silver Screenings said...

This sounds terrific! Must see! I adore Clara Bow (who doesn't?) and I'm trying to see more of her films. Great review, too!

The Lady Eve said...

Well...damn, this sounds like a real treat and a great Clara Bow movie. Feel very sheepish that the only one of her films I've actually seen is "It," and that fairly recently.

No matter, Marsha, I loved your entertaining and witty take on "Mantrap" (the name of the town, not Alverna/Clara's nickname?!?).

theblondeatthefilm.com said...

Great review! I've never seen this movie but you've made me want to. 30 films by the time Bow was 21? That's pretty incredible. Thanks for a fun read!

Aubyn Eli said...

I knew you'd come out with something great for the blogathon and you didn't disappoint me. I'm slowly trying to make my way through all the Clara Bow films (saw Call Her Savage recently and that was one crazy movie). This one definitely sounds like a must-see! The shot of her and Fleming together is adorable. Glad you decided to participate.

L'homme fatale said...

I love "It girl"

Christian Esquevin said...

Great choice for the blogathon Marsha. I haven't see it either but this is one I'll look for. I wouldn't have pictured Clara and Fleming as a couple - water and oil or something like that. But it probably worked magic for this movie.

Mas Rooy said...

thanks the info
Fill in really good article I really like the articles on this blog.

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