The Lady Eve (1941) Poster

(1941)

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9/10
Hell Hath No Fury As The Lady Scorned...
gaityr21 September 2002
On the surface of it, THE LADY EVE is a delightfully shallow evening's entertainment. It's a clever little film, filled with great dialogue ("Don't be vulgar, Jean. Let us be crooked, but never common.") and eccentric characters, from the leading lady Jean (a marvellous Barbara Stanwyck) and her much-beleaguered main man Charlie Pike (Henry Fonda) down to the other con artists that make up Jean's circle, including her dad Harry (Charles Coburn), sidekick Gerald (Melville Cooper) and Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith (Eric Blore)... or just Pearlie for short. Charlie is heir to the Pike Ale fortune, and while on a cruise home from South America, Harrington father and daughter decide to take the hapless lad to the metaphorical drycleaners. What neither of them gambles on is a romance that was always in the cards for Jean and Charlie. But just as Jean is about to go 'straight' for Charlie, he discovers that his girlfriend is part of a con racket, and unceremoniously dumps her. Hurt and determined to get revenge for his cruel parting words, Jean initiates a farce as the Lady Eve Sidwich of the film's title and infiltrates Charlie's home and heart again. She quickly teaches him a lesson he'll never forget, just as she realises how much she really still loves Charlie.

Story-wise, then, it's no doubt that THE LADY EVE provides fine frothy entertainment. Pair that with the surreal touches added into the film by Preston Sturges (take for example the supposedly climactic scene in which Charlie repeats his words of love to Eve--Fonda never gets to play the scene straight, even though he has to maintain a stony face as his horse keeps butting into his speech... presumably to try to get him to stop talking!), and there's certainly plenty to keep one occupied as is. The film is, of course, a screwball comedy absolutely bent on throwing every possible obstacle it can into the path of its intended couple, coming up with more twists than you expect...

However, thanks largely to the brilliant writing and direction provided by Sturges, it actually also plays very close and very insightfully to the theme of what Stanley Cavell calls 'remarriage comedy'. The idea behind this is that legal or religious marriages, the 'first' marriages of the couple concerned in such comedies, are actually sham marriages. It isn't saying 'I do' or signing a piece of paper that makes a marriage a marriage; it's the behaviour of the couple, their own endorsement, that makes it a true marriage. This theme is reflected in, for example, THE AWFUL TRUTH, which sees Lucy and Jerry Warriner divorcing (their first, sham marriage didn't work out) but getting back together again for a true, albeit not yet legalised, union. The same theme pervades THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. Preston Sturges very skilfully and effectively--but subtly!--brings this theme to his film as well. Eve and Charlie are married, but it is only when Charlie asks Jean for forgiveness and vice versa is it possible for the fact that they are married (to each other, as poor Charlie does not know!) to become significant and actually positively affirmed.

This isn't the only interesting point the film makes while appearing to be little more than a fluffy piece of entertainment--when Charlie breaks Jean's heart, she tells him, "The best [girls] aren't as good as you think they are and the bad ones aren't as bad. Not nearly as bad." She sets out to prove this, both in her fabricated 'good-girl' persona as Eve (later revealed to have had many MANY suitors) and her real 'bad-girl' con-artist self Jean (who has a soft heart and a love for Charlie that proves to be one of her virtues). Practically everyone in the film has (at least) two names by which they're known: Jean/Eve, Charlie/Hopsie, Muggsy/Murgatroyd/Ambrose, Harry/Colonel Harrington, Pearlie/Sir Alfred and so on. This suggests, quite rightly, that people are complicated complex beings, and that appearances often have nothing to do with reality. It also brings the film's story to a head--Jean and Charlie can never be happy together until Charlie can accept Jean as she is, and this he presumably will have learnt through his short, disastrous 'marriage' to Eve.

Stanwyck and Fonda are really outstanding in this film. Stanwyck's job is to persuasively depict two characters, and then effect a blend of the two of them in the final minutes of the story, and she pulls off both the sassy, confident Jean and the elegant, British Eve perfectly. It's not hard to imagine Charlie falling hard for Jean, even with her hard-headed casing of the joint and her prospective competition (appropriately deemed second-rate) for his affections... a very memorable scene involving her make-up mirror and a narrative voice-over, the latter of which is used to great effect in the lead-up to the 'romantic scene and horse' bit which follows later in the film. Fonda has the apparently easier job of appearing mostly colourless and stodgy as he spends most of his screen time reacting to situations created by both Jean and Eve, but I contend that it must really take quite a lot of true acting ability to execute the pratfalls that he does without making Charlie such a wimp that you can't imagine Jean still wanting him at the very end. Though not quite as effective as Cary Grant, who has to do the same thing in the face of Katharine Hepburn's breathlessly effusive Susan Vance in BRINGING UP BABY, Fonda still brings a sweet charm to his role as the not-at-all-slick, often befuddled Charlie Pike. Add these two classy performances to that given by the able supporting cast, and THE LADY EVE is not just well-scripted and directed, but also very very well-acted indeed.

So, watch this film the first time just for fun--be charmed by the characters, by the dialogue, by the actors, by everything. Then watch it again to realise just how subtly and effectively THE LADY EVE actually makes several comments on marriage and on love. I highly recommend getting your hands on the Criterion Collection DVD, which has (aside from a tremendous photo gallery and interview with Peter Bogdanavich and other special features) a fantastic, thought-provoking commentary by film critic Marian Keane--it most certainly got *me* thinking!

Great film, great entertainment, great message!
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A Tonic For The Senses
fowler111 July 2001
As a lifelong Preston Sturges fan, I find the problem with submitting 'user comments' on his films to be twofold. The first is where to begin, the second how to stop. A third problem (growing out of the first two) manifests itself immediately upon watching a flawless jewel like THE LADY EVE: why even bother to praise it? No matter how accurate or elegant a rave you write, they'd still be merely words, and words can't do Sturges justice...not after hearing and seeing his own words spinning like a thousand plates over the 90-odd minutes it takes for this film to utterly captivate you. Unlike many black-and-white products of the studio era, which generate condescension or apathy among the Gen X'ers of today (when do we get to Gen Z - or are we there already?), the Sturges cult grows with every passing year, as younger fans fall under his spell, drawn initially to his work for the still-startling energy of the stream of raspberries he blew at the Production Code. (In this sense, EVE marks a high point; it's all about sexual gamesmanship, and its tone is both matter-of-fact and dizzyingly playful at the same time.) But hopefully, they're coming for the sizzle and staying for the steak. Like all Sturges' Paramount films, EVE is an embarrassment of riches - a boudoir farce, a slapstick clinic, a cynical dialogue comedy AND a love story of great, soulful heart. It's especially recommended to anyone beset by misery and tribulation as a guaranteed restorative and cure-all. When a movie from any era can so completely take you out of yourself and lift the blackest of clouds without resorting to any cheapjack plot-gimmicks or trite manipulation of an audience's emotions, all you can do is be grateful. Though the unfailingly superb Sturges Players are on hand, in fine form (including of course his human rabbit's foot, Wm Demarest) EVE features a number of actors making their first and only appearances in a Sturges-directed film: Stanwyck, Fonda, Eric Blore, Melville Cooper and perennial Fonda cohort Eugene Pallette. All of them take to the material like catnip, making one long for an alternate reality in which Preston Sturges could have remained unmolested at Paramount for 20 years and a dozen more films than he actually made, not only to see this cast reunited, but to see what might have resulted from any number of quality actors being exposed to the hothouse atmosphere of his screenplays. That it never worked out that way is one more reason to treasure THE LADY EVE.
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9/10
"Oh Hopsie"
bkoganbing16 February 2007
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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9/10
Sturges Perfection
richard-mason11 October 2003
A second viewing of this after many years has confirmed it as truly one of the great comedies. I don't think Sturges was ever better (although I haven't seen all his films), and certainly he was never blessed with a better star pairing than Fonda and Stanwyck, plus his usual wonderful array of character comedians in the supporting roles. A double bill of Eve with "Hail the Conquering Hero" reveals that, while both still have their charms, Eve can still have a theatre rocking with laughter, while Hero leaves them a bit cold with its descent into Capra-cornish patriotism and mother love.

The Lady Eve has one of my favourite performances ever from Henry Fonda, showing that his grave sincerity could serve screwball comedy equally as well as Fordian moral uplift. He takes some of the funniest deadpan pratfalls this side of Buster Keaton.

And of course Stanwyck is a delight ... and Charles Coburn ... and Eugene Pallette ... and William Demarest ... and ... and ... ssshhh ... Eric Blore.

If you've never seen it, give yourself a treat
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10/10
Eve, the temptress
jotix1007 April 2005
This is another Preston Sturges masterpiece! With "The Lady Eve", Mr. Sturges proves he was at the pinnacle of his career. Rarely do all elements mesh together into films that are pleasing as well as showing intelligence to the viewer. This comedy has its heart in the right place.

Mr. Sturges assembled an amazing cast to appear in the movie. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda make the ideal players for Jean Harrington aka Lady Eve Sidwish, and Charles Pike. The saying that opposites attract is well demonstrated in the film when we watch these two different characters fall for one another. Ms. Stanwyck shows in this film her great timing; she is seen at her most attractive as the devious Jane/Eve. Henry Fonda is excellent playing comedy. Under Sturges' tight direction both these actors show why they were about the best in the business.

The strength with Mr. Sturges' films are the fantastic group of actors that follow him from movie to movie. Thus, we see William Demarest, one of the best character actors of the time, playing Mugssie. Eric Blore, another impressive English actor does amazing work as Pearlie. Charles Coburn is perfect as the gambling father. Eugene Palette plays Charlie's father. There are many more that make contributions to the success of this film.

Preston Sturges shows with this film he was one of the best auteurs in Hollywood, even when the term had not been coined.
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10/10
A brilliant comedy - from script to acting
mdmphd21 December 2001
One of my favorite films of the forties and, I believe, one of Barbara Stanwyck's best. Fonda also gets a chance to show some comedic chops as well as the foil for her Eve. It's apparent everyone involved knows they're in something good and enjoys it - Eugene Palette as Fonda's wealthy Father, William Demarest(think Uncle Charlie in My Three Sons)in one of his best supporting roles as Fonda's crusty valet, and Charles Coburn and Eric Blore doing brilliant comic character turns as card sharks on Eve's side. Stanwyck hadn't really cared about clothes before(see Mad Miss Manton) but this time Edith Head came up with some innovations that suddenly made her a fashion hit as well. Her bolero jackets, evening dresses, wedding gown and cap hats were big fashion successes, tailored to Stanwyck's tiny form. But the real star is the sparkling dialogue, delivered flawlessly by everyone. Plenty of one liners, double entendres and an incredibly sexy seduction in one long take where Stanwyck simply toys with Fonda's hair as he reclines, uncomfortably, on the floor beside her. There are other scenes - Stanwyck sizing up the room with commentary as seen thru her makeup mirror...the dinner party where Fonda can't get over how much Eve looks like the girl he left on the ship...a sequence where Fonda's horse started to move in on a romantic scene so Sturges rewrote and reshot other parts, making Fonda the foil of the intrusive horse. See if you can spot the take where the horse actually nibbles on Fonda and watch Stanwyck glide thru it all like a pro. BRILLIANT film -- can't recommend it highly enough - five stars of five - MDMPHD:>
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10/10
Exquisite comedy
funkyfry15 October 2002
A stunningly beautiful film -- and very funny, too, with 2 of the strongest leads in film paired memorably. Some moments, like Fonda slouching on the floor and Stanwyck drooping onto him in a wry parody of Hollywood lovemaking, actually achieve the grace and beauty of the best silent films. The story takes some fairly predictable turns, and the script and direction by Sturges are first rate. Fonda is very broad but miraculously pulls it off, and Stanwyck revels in the excellent role she plays (two roles in one, no less, an actor's dream!). One of the best comedies of the "classic" Hollywood era.
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An Interesting Combination That Works Very Well
Snow Leopard14 October 2004
This is an interesting combination of talents and material that works very well, thanks most of all to Preston Sturges's ability to create a distinctive feel to his pictures. "The Lady Eve" has many of the elements familiar to screwball comedy, and yet it is something a little different, a little more than the oddball characters and comical plot developments.

Barbara Stanwyck has quite an interesting role that allows her at times to assume several different personas. She shows good versatility, and effectively brings out the different sides of her character's nature. Henry Fonda works better than you would expect in such a comic picture. He is wisely used as a straight man most of the time, and even his occasional stiffness actually fits the role.

Much of the supporting cast gets only limited opportunities, but they are generally good also, especially Charles Coburn, who is perfectly cast as Stanwyck's shifty father.

There are many amusing moments, yet often with a current of humanity underneath. Sturges and the cast keep the laughs coming while also making sure that you care about the characters.
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10/10
Great 1940s Comedy with Fonda and Stanwyck
drednm19 November 2005
OK so the plot of The Lady Eve doesn't make a lot of sense, but why should it? It's fast, funny, and offers two great stars--Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda--great roles. Although both stars were better known for their dramatic roles, Fonda and Stanwyck breeze thru this romp in classic style.

Fonda plays a rich goofus who falls for Jean (Stanwyck) onboard an ocean liner but she turns out to be a crook so he dumps her. To get even, she pretends to be the British Lady Eve and crashes his Connecticut manor. He falls for her again.

Surprisingly racy lines for a 1941 comedy and a totally wonderful supporting cast make this a must see. Charles Coburn plays Stanwyck's father. Eugene Palette and Janet Beecher are Fonda's parents. William Demarest is the valet. Eric Blore is the faux earl. Melville Cooper is Coburn's valet. Robert Greig is the butler. Torben Meyer is the purser, and Martha O'Driscoll is a maid. The film is full of other faces familiar from Preston Sturges comedies: Jimmy Conlin, Al Bridge, Julius Tannen, Robert Warwick, and Robert Dudley. Also look for Bess Flowers, Barbara Pepper, and Luis Alberni.

First and foremost, however, are Stanwyck and Fonda. They made 3 films together and they are perfect Sturges types. He is still and gawky but basically good. She is slightly bad and sexy but basically good. It would be easy to replace Fonda in this film with another Sturges favorite, Joel McCrea, or replace Stanwyck with Veronica Lake (the star's of his Sullivan's Travels) and this would have been a good film. But Fonda and Stanwyck make this edgier than Lake and McCrea could have made it. Indeed if Fonda had been the star of Sullivan's Travels, that film would be in the top ten on all film fans' lists.

But The Lady Eve is just terrific. It's a comedy that runs hot on pacing, great lines, and the charisma and chemistry of two major stars. How odd that this classic comedy received only one Oscar nomination--for writing. Preston Sturges would be nominated for writing 3 times and win for The Great McGinty. He was never nominated as a director. The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, Miracle of Morgan's Creek, and Hail the Conquering Hero remain cornerstones of 40s comedy.

The Lady Eve is a must see for fans of great comedy and the likes of Sturges, Stanwyck, and Fonda!
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8/10
hilarious tour de force for two stars
blanche-215 January 2006
Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck light up the delightful Preston Sturges comedy, "The Lady Eve." Stanwyck plays a dual role as a con artist who falls for a mark, Henry Fonda, on board a ship and then, angry with his rejection of her, reappears in his life later as a member of the British upper class - you got it, the Lady Eve.

Fonda is hilarious as a clueless child of privilege. Always the most subtle, internalized of actors, his facial expressions are priceless, as is his slapstick. The funniest scene takes place on a train when, as the train races along the tracks, Eve recounts her various love affairs while Fonda becomes more and more flummoxed.

Betty Grable got a lot of publicity for her legs, but Stanwyck's were the best, shown to great advantage here, as is the rest of her gorgeous figure. She's fantastic in this and has great chemistry with Fonda. Stanwyck always creates a whole character, and she does here as well (in fact, two of them) as a woman who is smart, independent, vulnerable in love, and conniving when angry.

A great comedy, not to be missed.
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Clever Sturges comedy and very, very funny...
Neil Doyle2 December 2003
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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5/10
Fun but nonsensical
jbirks10623 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I realize that the screwball comedy genre has its own kind of logic, but "The Lady Eve" strikes me as having no logic at all. Though well written, which one expects from a Sturges film, I came away with the unsettling sense that the audience was being played for suckers.

The turning point in the film appears to be the moment when Hopsie was presented with a photo of Jean and her father as evidence of their swindling career. This can come as no surprise to the audience, which has already seen how the Colonel can turn a five-card nothing into four kings, then four aces. But can a supposed scientist (I forget the proper name for "snake hunter") be so gullible as to fall for his blatant card-sharpery? And when he confronts Jean with the photo, can his sense of betrayal and humiliation really be so shocking to her?

Yet this event sends Jean on a completely preposterous crusade of revenge. What exactly is her trick? To pose as an upper-class Brit who, by coincidence, looks exactly like Jean. And though Muggsy, Hopsie's dimwit ward, sees though the imposture immediately, our scientist falls for it, literally and figuratively, in no time.

Jean/Eve finally delivers the coup de grace while on their honeymoon -- in a train, of course. As she divulges her numerous supposed dalliances, Sturges intercuts shots of train whistles, lightning and the obligatory tunnel. Maybe this Freudian stuff was novel back in 1941; today it verges on self- parody. Watching Hopsie detrain with a muddy pratfall (one of literally dozens in the film), Eve/Jean seems to have an attack of conscience, as though she's just now realizing he "the only man I ever loved."

Stanwyck is sensational, even if her character(s) make no sense at all. William Demarest is very good, and occasionally hilarious, as Muggsy. The whole case, in fact, is first-rate. But Fonda's character is impossible to sympathize with, let alone root for, so improbably clueless and clumsy is Hopsie. Is he really surprised that an English aristocrat is not a virgin (the whole point of the setup)? Is he really so stupid as to fall for a grifter not once, but twice? Yes, evidently he is. It's clear to me that his real element is with the snakes of the Amazon, not those of Connecticut.
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10/10
The Suckersapiens and the Grifters
theowinthrop30 May 2006
"The Lady Eve" marked an important milestone in the career of Preston Sturgis. Unlike his first two directed films ("Christmas In July" and "The Great McGinty"), Sturgis got a bigger film budget from Paramount and had two leading stars in his lead parts. "Christmas In July" had Dick Powell and Ella Raines in the lead roles. "The Great McGinty" starred Brian Donleavy and Akim Tamiroff. Now he had Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwick. The success of the first two films convinced the studio to trust him.

Are snakes necessary? That question is one of the double entendres that bedeck this story of a young innocent millionaire who finds love the hard way. Charles Pike (Fonda) is a "Candide" type, coming out of the Amazon Jungle with his factotum aide Muggsy (William Demerest) where he has been studying his passion - snakes. He is an available bachelor, and all the woman on the ocean liner that picks him up aim for him. The one who makes the least effort is Jean Harrington (the daughter of one "Colonel" Harrington - Charles Coburn). Jean does not smile or order Pike's Ale ("The Ale that won for Yale"), which Charles father (Eugene Palette) brews. She gets straight to the point - she trips him. His accidental falling over Jean's foot is symbolic of his eventually falling for Jean.

Jean's motive is not love - she and her father and their "valet" Gerald (Melvin Cooper) are professional card sharks, and they plan to pluck Charles. But Charles and Jean fall in love, and she starts revolting against her father's view of the saps he cons whom he refers to as "suckersapiens". The scene where she uses her wiles to thwart her father's attempts to make a killing at poker is quite funny, especially with Coburn's sudden reactions ("What wonderful cards you've given to me.", he mutters when she gives him an impossibly bad hand).

The romance falls apart when Charles learns of Jean's card-sharping career. Later she meets an old con-artist friend, Sir Alfred MacGlennon Keith (Eric Blore) who knows the Pikes. Introducing Jean as his niece, "Lady Eve Sidgewick" , she enchants the society of the Pike family's town, and only gains the suspicions of two people: Charles who does not know what to make at "Lady Eve"'s great resemblance to Jean, and Muggsy, who is sure they are the same woman.

You will enjoy the disastrous dinner party for Eve, where Charles changes clothes more frequently than a female model at a fashion show. You will enjoy Charles' attempt to propose to Eve, and the silent commentary of a horse who butt's in. You will also find out how Charles and Eve spent the most memorable railroad honeymoon in film comedy.

Are snakes necessary? Yes, but so are card sharks and suckersapiens too.
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Outstanding classic comedy.
yarborough16 October 2001
The Lady Eve is one of the most memorable comedies of the golden age, and today it stands as a highly entertaining movie that has a lot of enjoyably dated comedy. Particularly hilarious are the scenes in which Stanwyck spills her life story to Fonda as they swoosh under the train tunnel, and the scenes in which the food trays keep spilling on Fonda. The performances are great, and though it seems more like Stanwyck falls for Fonda out of pity more than love, the two work well together. And Barbara Stanwyck in that black, bare-midriff dress is one of the most breath-takingly beautiful images ever to appear on the screen.
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10/10
Classic screwball romance
Daryl Chin (lqualls-dchin)21 December 2000
Probably one of the classic screwball romantic comedies of all time, this film remains a fast and furious delight. The comedy isn't just in the witty lines, but the sudden bits of business, the abrupt switches from high comedy to slapstick, and the wonderful interplay of the performers. Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck were never funnier, livelier, nor would either of them be more romantic. There are so many memorable scenes, such as the disastrous dinner party (with Fonda tripping all over himself or tripping up others), or the honeymoon on the train, that it's impossible to do the film justice. It's one of the high points of literacy in Preston Sturges's career, with such gems as Eric Blore's comment "I positively swill in their ale," or William Demarest's declaration "Positively the same dame!" It's positively one of Preston Sturges's best comedies.
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10/10
This is a perfect romantic comedy...
calvinnme10 January 2015
... and probably my favorite A-list film. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda display such chemistry and play off of each other so perfectly, and I have to credit director Preston Sturges, because in another pairing of the two at about the same time, in "You Belong to Me", their chemistry - heck the whole movie - just landed with a thud.

Fonda plays Charles, somebody born to wealth, and therefore with the leisure to do whatever he wants to do without thinking about the beauty of his situation. Charles chooses to study snakes. His no-nonsense self-made man father, perfectly played by Eugene Palette, holds his egg head son in only medium esteem, to quote another film, and has therefore assigned tough guy Muggsy (William Demarest) to be his body guard since he somewhat rightly perceives that Charles has no common sense or survival instincts. Charles is naïve, Jean (Stanwyck) is a con-woman wise in the ways of the world. She starts out to fleece the guy at cards when they find themselves on the same ship, but falls in love with him in spite of herself. When Charles finds out Jean is a con artist, he rejects her and she vows revenge, which she gets in the most imaginative way possible, all the while claiming that she doesn't love Charles anymore - but she does. She is a young woman wise to the "tells" in everybody else but blind to her own true feelings.

Eric Blore, usually given to expressing himself with looks and one liners, is given a rather intricate story to tell at a crucial moment in the film and carries it off wonderfully. William Demarest has never been funnier, and poor Charles gets no end of grief from his father. Sure he's clumsy, but at one point he's blamed for having the main course dumped in his lap at a dinner party caused by two servants fighting over who is going to serve the main course.

I won't give away any more, because the story is truly part of the delight here, but just let it be said that Jean teaches Charles that you can't tell what is in the present by looking at the wrapping paper, although the real moral of this film is that people in love believe what that want to believe. Highly recommended.
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8/10
The Two Faces Of Eve
writers_reign13 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The one about the naive, unworldly guy falling for the fast-talking cynical gal who starts out by using him and winds up loving him is hardly new indeed Stanwyck herself played virtually the same role in Ball Of Fire whilst Gary Cooper, her 'victim' in Fire did something similar in Mr Deeds Goes To Town where Jean Arthur came to laugh and stayed to love and so on. Nevertheless Sturges is able to give a hackneyed plot a fresh coat of paint with some fine writing and direction and it does no harm to have a first-rate cast from the two leads, Fonda and Stanwyck through Eric Blore, Eugene Palette, Charles Coburn, Melville Cooper and fully paid-up member of the Preston Sturges Repertory Company William Deamarest. This is the one where virtually all the main characters have two names and Stanwyck comes complete with two personas; there should really be a sub-genre for films like this and others like Easy Living (written but not directed by Sturgis) Sophisticated Screwball but call it what you will it's still great.
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10/10
Stanwyck is brilliant...the writing here is excellent....
Jem Odewahn8 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
My first foray into the films of director Preston Sturges (I've been a bit hesitant to watch one of his films, for fear of disappointment I guess) came with THE LADY EVE. Well, I wasn't disappointed- it was amazing! The dialogue was scorchingly witty and fast-paced and Barbara Stanwyck was just perfect. Forget the hoo-ha over Miss Stanwyck not winning the Oscar in 1944 for her Phyllis Dietrichson in the classic noir DOUBLE INDEMNITY. She should have won it for this film! She was nominated in 1941, but for BALL OF FIRE (another screwball comedy with Gary Cooper as her leading man, directed by Howard Hawks). I've not seen the film. so I can't really judge if she's any better there than here, but it's hard to see anyone topping this performance in that year. Forget the de Havilland-Fontaine battle, this should have been Barbara's year!

It contains one one of the most sexiest scenes I've yet seen- you all know which one, the scene in Stanwyck's cabin with Fonda where she rakes her fingers through his hair, leaving him literally frozen and quite breathless! Hopsie (Fonda, also wonderful and taking pratfalls with an ease I never thought possible)looks like he needs a cold shower, and so does the audience! Phew!

I just loved it!
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10/10
An absolute wonder!
MerryArtist9 December 2006
One of the most delightful and remarkable traits of this movie is the perfect chemistry between Stanwyck and Fonda. As characters with completely opposing characteristics, the two act side by side with fantastic expressions - Fonda's bewildered acting is most hilarious - and great timing.

Though many consider DOUBLE INDEMNITY to be Barbara Stanwyck's best film, I personally prefer THE LADY EVE because this role has a wider range. Stanwyck is the daughter of a professional gambler and is a pro when it comes to bewitching men for the purpose of cheating their money out of poker games. But she is also pure at heart and wants to come clean when she finally falls for a man probably unlike any she had ever encountered before. Then things go wrong, but the best part of the film starts right here, when Stanwyck becomes an actress playing an actress. It is simply amazing how perfect her acting is, to such a degree that Fonda's character doubts himself as to whether the lady in front of him is the woman he once knew or a different woman altogether.

The film is very adept at making the audience feel slightly bewildered, like Fonda's character Charles Pike. It makes the viewers dazzled, leaving them feeling like Charles, while marveling at Jean Harrington's (Stanwyck) tactics. Full of witticisms and brilliant performances, THE LADY EVE is undoubtedly one of the best comedies of the flourishing year of 1941.
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5/10
Lady?
AaronCapenBanner10 October 2013
Preston Sturges directed this well-regarded comedy with Henry Fonda playing Charles Pike, a rich but unsophisticated heir to a brewing family who is returning from the Amazon by ship after studying snakes. He meets and falls in love with Jean Harrington(played by Barbara Stanwyck) who is really a con artist, along with Col. Harrington(Charles Coburn) a notorious card shark who tries to swindle poor clueless Charles by a crooked card game, then by having Jean marry him for the money. After getting wise to their scheme, the jilted Jean decides to get back at Charles by pretending to be someone else at his mansion home! Can real love blossom despite the lies? Disappointing comedy does not live up to its reputation, since any effective humor is undermined by two lead characters it's impossible to care about or find endearing.
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5/10
Why is this a classic?
Zoopansick11 August 2004
I have heard a lot about this movie from various critics and in books, and after seeing it I'm not too impressed. To me it just seemed like a routine studio romantic comedy from the 30s or 40s. It didn't have a unique storyline or great ending. Even the "famous scene" was just Fonda lying on the floor looking stupid while Stanwyck tricks him into loving her. In fact I can barely remember the context of her speech let alone any funny/memorable lines from it (and i just watched the movie). Now I realize that modern taste in comedy is a lot different from what was considered funny back then; but movies like "Bringing up Baby" most of the Marx Bros. films and Abbott and Costello are all funnier to me then this. Fonda is especially bland and unfunny (oh wait, he's always bland and unfunny) in his role as the overly stupid wealthy bachelor. He trips over stuff but has no funny lines and is vanilla as per usual. Stanwyck is much better, and keeps things lively on her end. Also to the films credit the pace is quick and things move along. The movie wasn't horrible or anything like that, but I don't see why this particular movie became as famous as it did in front of any of the hundreds and hundreds of other studio releases from the same time period. If your video store still caries old vhs tapes why don't you try out this experiment...Rent The Lady Eve, and then rent like 3 other old comedies from the late 30s and early 40s. Then ask yourself, does this movie standout from the others; and if so why? If you answer "yes", come back here and explain it to me, I'd love to know why.



Zoopansick
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Fonda And The Film Are Horrible
ccthemovieman-115 July 2006
Henry Fonda's character in here just about made me puke. He is so stupid, it's more-than-annoying and simply a plain insult to any viewer with a modicum of intelligence. (For instance, Fonda falls in love with Barbara Stanwyck, and six months later doesn't recognize her when he sees her again?)

This could have been much better with more emphasis on the con games between the two main characters, and more realism in the story.

Summary: one of the most overrated, stupid classic screwball comedies ever made. "Screwball" is a good term for this film. Fonda should have stuck with Westerns where he was at least somewhat palatable.
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9/10
Another bona fide gem from the astute Preston Sturges.
Spikeopath17 September 2009
Fresh from his Amazonian based jungle adventures, wealthy Charles Pike {Henry Fonda} is ripe for some female company, you would think? However, as he sets off home for New York aboard a luxury liner, Charles is oblivious to the attentions of all the women on board, with one exception, con-woman Jean Harrington {Barbara Stanwyck}. Who, aided by her card-sharp father, set about fleecing Pike of some serious cash. Until that is, Jean starts to fall for Charles and a turn of events will see The Lady Eve Sidwich put in an appearance.

The Lady Eve is one of Preston Sturges' best romantic comedies. Dripping with sly asides at the snobbish and fusing slap-stick with its gender inversion satire, "Eve's" ending may never be in doubt, but the journey getting there is an unadulterated joy. Flawless direction from Sturges and cracking performances from the leads, most notably Stanwyck who cements her standing as one of the finest comedienne's of her generation, "Eve" continues to this day to be a darling of critics and fans alike. Back in 1994 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, the reasons correctly cited as being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.

Co-written by Sturges and Monckton Hoffe, the story is a loose reworking of a Hoffe story titled "Two Bad Hats" (also the original title for "Eve" the movie). A number of casting changes and rewrites to appease the Hays Office Censors occurred, but in the end it all worked out rather well, with the set apparently a fun and easy one to be on. It's something that shows thru in the best of Sturges' film's, that his cast are relaxed and knowing they are working for one of the sharpest and in tune writers of 1940s cinema. With Stanwyck baring midriff and sexy legs, and Fonda pratfalling for all his worth, The Lady Eve is simply a must see in classic cinema terms. But as is the way with the best of Sturges, you need to see thru the froth and sample the cunning that he was want to deliver, because only then you come to understand why critics and some big hitting directors have lauded him for the brilliant work that he did. 9/10
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8/10
Wonderful Romantic Comedy
Claudio Carvalho18 May 2013
After one year in Amazon researching snakes, the naive ophidiologist Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) returns to the United States in a transatlantic. Charles is the son of the Connecticut's brewery millionaire Mr. Pike (Eugene Palette) and disputed by gold diggers. The swindlers Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck), her father "Colonel" Harrington (Charles Coburn) and their friend Gerald (Melville Cooper) plan a confidence trick on Charles, but unexpectedly Jean falls in love with Charles and she calls off the scheme. However Charles's bodyguard Muggsy (William Demarest) discovers that Jean is a con-artist and the disappointed Charles leaves Jean.

Sometime later, in New York, the trio of con-artists meets their friend "Sir" Alfred McGlennan Keith (Eric Blore) in the horse races and they learn that "Sir" Alfred belonged to the high-society of Connecticut based on the reputation he had built. Jean sees the opportunity to take revenge at Charles, and she travels to the house of her "aunt" pretending to be the British noble Lady Eve. Mr. Pike promotes a party for Lady Eve and she seduces Charles that proposes her. But her intention is to get even with Charles.

"The Lady Eve" is a wonderful romantic comedy by Preston Sturges. The lovely Barbara Stanwyck has a witty performance in the role of a swindler that falls in love with a naive heir. The best moments of the movie belongs to her and I laughed when she tells her adventure in the tube in New York; or when she discloses her love affairs to Charles in their honeymoon. Henry Fonda is funny in the role of a simple and credulous son of a millionaire. The result is a movie that makes laugh and feels nostalgia for a time when the society could buy a story so delightfully unbelievable and witty. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "As Três Noites de Eva" ("The Three Nights of Eve")
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4/10
Incredible cast & dialogue marred by poor direction
irish234 August 2007
"The Lady Eve" suffers from the same problem all Sturges' films have: slow pacing that undercuts the energy of the scene.

The cast in this film is outstanding, with the greatest ensemble of character actors I've seen. Barbara Stanwyck is unbelievably good, playing two characters that eventually blend into one. Her performance is on par with Katharine Hepburn's "Philadelphia Story," but Hepburn had a lot more dialogue and a great deal more aspects to her character's persona to get across. While Stanwyck's attempt at an "English" accent is regrettable, her performance is otherwise flawless. Her conniving, seductive, confident, fun-loving, vulnerable, extroverted, and tender aspects are woven together so skillfully that you don't even question so many traits residing in one woman.

Henry Fonda has been much-praised for his performance but I found it lacking. Part of that is due to poor writing -- his character is largely an easily duped buffoon who then bursts into soliloquies of such refined beauty that you wonder where his brain has been. Fonda doesn't pull it off; instead, he simply reacts to whatever is being done to him. The camera-work underscores this, focusing almost exclusively on the riveting Stanwyck. He's entirely unbelievable as an eminent scientist, since he exhibits very little rational thinking throughout the film. His expression barely alters throughout the entire film, going from befuddled to earnest and back to befuddled. Unlike Stanwyck, his face never actually *looks* highly intelligent. It's hard to understand what Stanwyck's character sees in him.

This would have been a far more interesting film if almost one-third of it were cut. Sturges writes some brilliant dialogue which the actors deliver with flawless timing, but then he follows the character for what seems like endless seconds as they leave the room, enter the room, pace the room, or do whatever empty gesture soaks up some time. All the energy and sparkle created by the interchange during the scene bleeds slowly away.

There is the usual Sturges montage, as boring as most. I found myself able to fast-forward through far too much of the film. (With "The Philadelphia Story," for instance, you can't fast-forward without missing a critical bit of dialogue or character development.) The physical comedy would be far more interesting if he simply cut in, captured the action, and then cut out. His continually lingering camera-work mars the flow and pacing of the film.

My wish is that the dead screen time could have been replaced with more sparkling dialogue. The film would be a much better picture that way. As for its being the "greatest screwball comedy ever," it doesn't hold a candle to "It Happened One Night" and others of the Great Age of Hollywood. Perhaps Sturges should've just stuck to writing!
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