Cast & Crew
Lewis R. Foster
Unemployed writer Alton Bennet tells psychiatrist Dr. Redman about his nightmares, in which he dreams that he murders his wealthy wife Ruth with a heavy perfume bottle. Redman's secretary, Merl Kramer, takes notes as Bennet denies coveting his wife's jewels, which are worth $100,000. After Bennet is refused an advance from his publishers, he becomes jealous of Ruth's close relationship with handsome young architect Guy Bayard, who is designing their new beach house. That night, Merl gently rebuffs the unwanted advances of her boardinghouse neighbor, private detective Karl Benson, whom she considers only a friend. After Merl tells Karl about Bennet's case, Karl steals her office keys and has Charlie, an unscrupulous locksmith and fence, duplicate them. Karl then accompanies Merl to her office for Redman's evening appointment with Ruth. When Karl sees bejewelled Ruth enter Redman's building with Bayard, he copies her address from her car registration. The next day, Karl brings Ruth's jewels to Charlie, but Charlie accepts only the smaller pieces as he fears the larger ones would be connected with Ruth's murder, which has just been reported. Karl then asks Merl to deposit his money in her bank account for safekeeping, and hides Ruth's jewels in his apartment. When homicide detective Lieut. Dawson arrives at the Bennet apartment to investigate Ruth's murder, he discovers that insurance investigator Joe Cooper is already on the scene. Although the perfume bottle is determined to be the murder weapon, Bennet vehemently denies having killed his wife, and his butler affirms that he had been incapacitated due to a large quantity of sleeping pills. As the investigation proceeds, Joe precedes Dawson in questioning suspects, including Merl, who became a suspect when Redman's files on Bennet were found missing, and Dawson learned that she forged her letters of recommendation. Joe believes that Merl is innocent, although she refuses to explain why she left California, where her daughter still lives. Hoping to put Dawson and Joe off, Karl investigates the murder, claiming that he is interested in the insurance company's reward for the recovery of Ruth's jewels. Karl then plants one of Ruth's rings in Merl's upholstered chairs, and when police later find the ring at a pawn broker, they trace it back to Merl. Joe takes Merl out to dinner and learns that Bennet and Karl were the only persons in her apartment before she found the ring. Police arrest Merl after Karl shows them her bank book, which reflects a $1,000 balance. When Karl is confronted by Redman, who confesses to being Ruth's killer, Karl explains that he had also intended to frame Bennet for his wife's murder and steal her jewels, but as Redman got to her first, Karl knocked Redman out and stole the jewels from him. Karl now insists that they work together and split the reward. Merl, meanwhile, is interrogated by police, and Dawson orders Karl to search her apartment. Karl murders Redman, then plants the jewels in Merl's chair. After Merl is released, Karl forces her to pull the jewels out of her chair, and she realizes that she has been framed. Karl knocks her out and intends to throw her from the roof, but her awakening screams draw the police, and Karl pretends that he was attempting to prevent her from committing suicide. Back in Merl's apartment, Dawson brings in eyewitnesses who identify Karl as having been at the Bennets' apartment on the night of the murder. Karl is arrested, and later, Joe invites Merl to dinner.
Lewis R. Foster
Lewis H. Creber
Lewis R. Foster
Howard B. Pine
William H. Pine
William C. Thomas
Based on a story by L.S. Goldsmith entitled The Man Who Stole a Dream, Manhandled's screenplay was written by Whitman Chambers, a prolific mystery and crime author who published over twenty novels and many short stories. Chambers was no stranger to Hollywood, with many screenplays to his credit, plus uncredited contributions to 1944's classic drama To Have and Have Not. The director assigned to Manhandled was veteran Lewis Foster, a multitalented writer, director, composer and songwriter with an impressive collection of credits (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington , The Farmer's Daughter , The More the Merrier ). His directing assignments were a mixed bag of mostly B-grade titles, but Lewis was a more than competent talent who knew how to put a picture together.
The rest of the technical credits for Manhandled were also solid. Cinematography was assigned to Ernest Laszlo, a Hungarian immigrant to America who started in pictures as a camera operator on Wings in 1927. Laszlo's career started slowly as he amassed a resume with titles like Dear Ruth (1947), Two Years Before the Mast (1946) and others. After Manhandled, he went on to movies like the film noir classic D.O.A. (1950), Stalag 17 (1953), and The Naked Jungle (1954). Laszlo later had major successful collaborations with directors Robert Aldrich (Vera Cruz , Apache , Kiss Me Deadly ) and Stanley Kramer (Inherit the Wind , Judgment at Nuremberg , It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World , Ship of Fools ). Laszlo received Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography for his aforementioned films with Kramer, and also for later films Fantastic Voyage (1966), Star! (1968), Airport (1970), and Logan's Run (1976).
Often the casts in Pine-Thomas pictures weren't strictly A-level; yet Manhandled's chief draw was the presence of one of Paramount's top-ranked females, Sarong Queen Dorothy Lamour, here playing outside of her usual comfort zone. The lovely Lamour had become incredibly successful for her exotic jungle maiden roles and in musical and light comedy roles, most prominently as the female foil for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in their series of Road movies.
Manhandled starred two male leads with considerable charisma, the stalwart Sterling Hayden as a honest, no-nonsense insurance investigator, and Dan Duryea as a crooked ex-cop turned private eye. It was an early effort for Hayden who doesn't appear until near the mid-point and is handicapped by a poorly written role that doesn't capitalize on his strengths. On the other hand, Dan Duryea had amassed a collection of impressive credits prior to Manhandled, playing mostly no-good types with a particular relish that was irresistible. His role here as a cocky and corrupt P.I. Karl Benson was tailor made for Duryea, complete with the character's leering romantic attention to Dorothy Lamour he's only playing her for inside information - and a truly shocking murder-by-automobile that Benson commits, all the while insolently chomping on his trademark chewing gum.
Despite the solid production job and acting talent, Manhandled didn't quite hit the mark. Reviewers and audiences found the plot involving psychiatrists, architects, jewels, murder, authors and a hapless female office assistant too confusing to be completely effective. Despite Dorothy Lamour's popularity, no one wanted to see her as an ordinary secretary, even though she gives a competent performance. Contemporary audiences coming to the movie with its reputation as a relatively uncelebrated film will find that Manhandled does not disappoint, but the pleasure is mostly in watching the interesting group of actors Lamour, Duryea and Hayden find their way around the movie's complications.
Producers: William H. Pine, William C. Thomas
Director: Lewis R. Foster
Screenplay: Whitman Chambers, Lewis R. Foster; L.S. Goldsmith (novel "The Man Who Stole A Dream")
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Art Direction: Lewis H. Creber
Music: Darrell Calker
Film Editing: Howard Smith
Cast: Dorothy Lamour (Merl Kramer), Sterling Hayden (Joe Cooper), Dan Duryea (Karl Benson), Irene Hervey (Ruth/Mrs. Alton Bennet), Phillip Reed (Guy Bayard), Harold Vermilyea (Dr. Redman), Alan Napier (Alton Bennet), Art Smith (Detective Lt. Bill Dawson), Irving Bacon (Sgt. Fayle).
by Lisa Mateas
The working titles of this film were The Man Who Stole a Dream and The Betrayal. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Paul Kelly was initially considered for a lead role in this film.