Returning from a year up the Amazon studying snakes, the rich but unsophisticated Charles Pike meets con-artist Jean Harrington on a ship. They fall in love, but a misunderstanding causes them to split on bad terms. To get back at him, Jean disguises herself as an English lady, and comes back to tease and torment him. Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I don't know how I missed seeing this until now, but tonight I watched THE LADY EVE unfurl on TCM and took notice of how great the chemistry was between BARBARA STANWYCK and HENRY FONDA. And even more so, how fantastic their ability with screwball comedy had to be in order to make their characters as believable as they are.
Fonda, especially, impressed me with his honestly naive interpretation of a man without guile. He seemed totally hoodwinked by Stanwyck's con artist, even in those relentless close-ups that captured every expression on his Honest Abe face. Stanwyck, of course, had a role tailored to her abilities and was at the top of her form as an actress.
I would have liked a better role for Melville Cooper who is somewhat wasted in his rather thankless supporting role but Charles Coburn, William Demarest and Eric Blore have no such trouble with full-bodied character parts.
Sturgess obviously is a master of long takes--and proves it again in his seduction scene where Stanwyck toys with Fonda's hair as she drapes herself across him, a spider spinning her web. Her best moment is the scene in the dining room where she uses her make-up mirror to make a running commentary on all the women who are ogling the rich catch (Fonda) while he becomes aware of the female attention. Although Fonda's pratfalls are painfully real, Sturges lets them occur a little too frequently. Demarest too has his share of falls--as he did in that other Sturges masterpiece, THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK.
Fonda's performance ranks with his mild professor in THE MALE ANIMAL. As for Stanwyck, her professionalism has never been more solid. She was nominated in 1941 for Best Actress in BALL OF FIRE but she is equally impressive in her dual role assignment here.
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