The Lady Eve

The Lady Eve

*****

Reviewed by: Caro Ness

In this marvellous film, the conniving Harringtons, father and daughter, Harry and Jean, (Charles Coburn and Barbara Stanwyck) orchestrate a meeting on board a cruise ship with Charlie Pike (Henry Fonda), the wealthy, but naive, heir to a brewery fortune, in an attempt to cheat him at cards. Their plan is doomed to failure when Jean Harrington falls in love with her prey. But when Charlie is informed of her gold-digging ways, she must plot to re-conquer his heart. How she does this I will not divulge. Suffice to say, it allows for further comic moments and plot twists galore.

This is one of Preston Sturges's cleverest and best-beloved romantic comedies. The Lady Eve balances broad slapstick - Fonda takes no less than six prat falls - and sophisticated sexiness with a sure touch. For its time, the film challenged the censors with the erotic charge created in the scene where the feverish Charlie, who has been up the Amazon for a year, almost faints at the sight of Jean's ankles. It literally oozes sex, without so much as a kiss, but you know full well that when he leaves her he is going back to his cabin to have a long cold shower!

From Stanwyck, who is perfectly cast as the calculating, witty Jean/Eve, to the doe-eyed innocence of Fonda, who shows a real talent for comedy, the cast is stellar. Other fine character actors, such as Coburn, Eugene Pallett, William Demerest and Eric Blore ably support the two leads.

Everything about this film marks it out as a masterpiece. One of cinema's finest screenwriters, Sturges has written a most perfect script and then directed it with flair for both comedy and sexual innuendo. The one-liners are superb and expertly delivered, the dialogue is sharp and pithy, the plot moves at a breakneck pace and always keeps you guessing, although at heart you know the inevitable outcome. BRAVO!

Reviewed on: 16 Jun 2005
Share this with others on...
The Lady Eve packshot
Forties sex comedy at sea, with more twists than a tornado.
Amazon link

Director: Preston Sturges

Writer: Preston Sturges

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest, Eric Blore, Melville Cooper.

Year: 1941

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

Festivals:

Birds 2008

Search database: