Plot: Lois Ames (Kay Francis) is the editor of a popular fashion magazine, a position she has a great passion for and she does incredible work. The business is in her blood, as the magazine has been part of her family’s legacy and she took over with enthusiasm. She puts in long hours and is beyond dedicated, as she takes pride in the magazine and her hand in the process. Her husband Freddie (Kenneth Thompson) doesn’t mind his wife being the breadwinner, as he dislikes work and prefers a life of leisure, as well as time to pursue his social interests. She meets a lot of salesmen in her line of work, but when Tommy (David Manners) shows up for a meeting, she sees a spark in him and hires him on the spot, while his interest is more personal than professional. Soon all kinds of unexpected romances and temptations begin to unfold, but how will Lois navigate all this drama?
Entertainment Value: The premise here is a familiar one, as a workaholic is tempted with true love and passion, but Man Wanted doesn’t follow the usual blueprint and instead, offers a more interesting take on the concept. The role of the work obsessed boss is given to a female here, which is a drastic shift from most similar movies, then the narrative refuses to paint her as flawed because of her relentless work ethic, another fresh element. At the heart of Man Wanted is a romantic comedy and it is sweet at times, but again it doesn’t just go through the motions, especially when it comes to Tommy’s pursuit of Lois. The dynamic between the two is well developed and not rushed, unlike most modern romantic comedies that feel inevitable. I also appreciate how the various romance threads interweave and create this social web, which is of course bound to unravel and does so in satisfying fashion. The interactions between Freddie and Andy are hilarious and a little odd, while most of the dialogue is sharp and well performed, so it is a fun movie. Not as risque as some pre-code movies, but still progressive, well crafted, and well worth a spin.
The cast here is a lot of fun, with enthusiastic performances and immense charm, even from the smaller roles. Kay Francis has the lead and she plays the workaholic Lois with a real spark, so this is not the usual take on the driven boss. Her smile alone would melt the coldness usually given to this kind of role, while she handles the sharp dialogue with great skill. Her scenes with David Manners are her best work in this one, as the two have great chemistry and play off each other well. I also really appreciated how Francis conveyed the power of Lois’ presence, but never came off as hardened or bitter, which then makes the romance elements more natural. Manners is good here as well, but for me his best moments come when he banters with Andy Devine, who is hilarious in this one and a real bright spot. I always love to see Devine and he really delivers here, in a smaller, but highly memorable part. Also can’t forget Una Merkel, who is great as well and Kenneth Thompson, who plays the free spirited husband of our ambitious, work obsessed Lois.