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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 <email@example.com>
Preston Sturges always handled his stars with kid gloves but took out his frustrations on the members of his stock company. At one point during filming, when he couldn't get Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck to read a scene the way he wanted, he stalked over to William Demarest, who wasn't even in the scene, and barked, "And don't talk so damn fast!" See more »
When Charles first meets "the Lady Eve Sidwich" at the party, his face goes from blank expression to shock twice - first with all characters, then in closeup. See more »
Second Ship's Waiter:
Good morning, sir. Fruit, cereal, bacon and eggs, eggs and sausage, sausage and hot cakes, hot cakes and ham, ham and eggs, eggs and bacon, bacon and...
Gimme a spoonful of milk, a raw pigeon's egg, and four houseflies. If you can't catch any, I'll settle for a cockroach.
See more »
A very large cartoon snake displays the opening credits while twining around an apple tree. See more »
In this period of Henry Fonda's career, most of the good films was stuff he made away from his studio at 20th Century Fox. The Lady Eve is one of the best examples of that,
With the success that Preston Sturges had with Christmas in July and The Great McGinty the year before, Paramount decided now they could trust Sturges with a big budget and an A list pair of leads. In fact they borrowed Henry Fonda from Darryl Zanuck and signed the then freelancing Barbara Stanwyck.
This was a banner year in the career of Barbara Stanwyck. She did Meet John Doe, The Lady Eve and Ball of Fire in the same year, the last one she got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. The Lady Eve came first and paved the way for a similar role in Ball of Fire.
She's a street smart dame in both films, in the Lady Eve she's a shill for her conman father Charles Coburn and in Ball of Fire she's a nightclub singer and moll for gangster Dana Andrews. In both films she falls for rather withdrawn, naive, and bookish sort of men who bring out the mother instinct in her. In fact she has similar nicknames for them, Gary Cooper is called Pottsie and Henry Fonda is Hopsie.
Stanwyck, Coburn, and Melville Cooper are a trio of con artists who are looking for a fresh pigeon and they find one in Henry Fonda who is a millionaire's kid. Fonda today would be called a trust fund baby, but he has an interest in science and he's coming back from the Amazon on a boat when meets up with the slick trio.
Of course Stanwyck falls for the shy and bumbling Fonda, but there are many hurdles to overcome before these two find happiness.
This may have been Henry Fonda's best comedy part. And like Joel McCrea in other Preston Sturges films, Fonda does so well in the part because he plays it absolutely straight. No tongue in cheek, no winks at the audience, Fonda plays it straight and sincere.
The usual Preston Sturges stock company is here and prominent in the cast is always William Demarest as the mug that is a kind of bodyguard factotum for Fonda. Hired of course by Eugene Palette in another one of his crotchety millionaire father roles.
Best scene in the film is right at the beginning as Stanwyck analyzes all the moves a lot of the other females on board are using to attract Fonda before she decides on a very direct approach.
The Lady Eve holds up very well as do all of Preston Sturges's work after over 60 years. I do kind of wonder though if Stanwyck can control that streak of larceny in her even though she's marrying a millionaire who can give her anything.
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