Most romantic film #41: The Lady Eve (1941)

Another Preston Sturges comedy. I don’t know why he isn’t better known or gets more cred.

In this film, ale heir Charles Pike, played by Henry Fonda, is returning home via ocean liner from a year up the Amazon studying snakes when he meets Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck), a beautiful con woman. Jean works with her father Harry (Charles Coburn) and pal Gerald (Melville Cooper) as card sharps on the cross-Atlantic tours.

Jean charms Charles and love is in the air, until Charles’ bodyguard-valet Muggsy (William Demarest) discovers and reveals the truth to Charles. Although Jean was on the up and up with Charles–practically reformed–his dumping breaks her heart and triggers a need for revenge.

Jean visits her “uncle,” another con man working the Bridgeport, Connecticut set–where the Pikes live and brew their ale. Transforming herself into “the Lady Eve” Sidwich, Jean charms Charles for the second time… and screwball comedy antics occur.

As usual in a Sturges comedy, the secondary characters are played by fine actors who are delightfully slapstick, comical, and quirky. The main players–Fonda and Stanwyck–are sensational in this turnabout comedy.

Clearly, “Hopsie,” as Jean calls him, has never met a girl–or girls–like her before. It is another smart, hilarious, gorgeous comedy about meeting, mating, and marrying, American style. Why aren’t there any movies like this any more?


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