A conniving father and daughter meet up with the heir to a brewery fortune-a wealthy but na´ve snake enthusiast-and attempt to bamboozle him at a cruise ship card table. Their plan is quickly abandoned when the daughter fa... more »lls in love with their prey. But when the heir gets wise to her gold-digging ways, she must plot to re-conquer his heart. One of Sturges' most clever and beloved romantic comedies, The Lady Eve balances broad slapstick and sophisticated sexiness with perfect grace.« less
"The gist of THE LADY EVE is ably summed up by Barbara Stanwyck's character in the first half of the film: "The good girls are never as good as they seem to be, and the bad ones never as bad." In this movie, Barbara plays Jean Harrington, a "bad girl" who is not as bad as she seems to be, who later pretends to be Eve Sidgwick, a "good girl" who isn't as good. In my opinion, this is the greatest romantic comedy ever made. Other films may be more romantic, others funnier, but not a single one combines both elements so perfectly. Everything about this film sparkles. Preston Sturges, one of the finest screenwriters in the history of cinema, turned out one of his most perfect scripts.. The details, the transitions between scenes, the wit, the lightning pace, the superb oneliners, the cascading dialog, absolutely everything marks this as a Preston Sturges production. The cast is utterly beyond reproach. Absolutely no one in the history of film could have been more perfect in the central role as Barbara Stanwyck. Other men could have played the Henry Fonda part, but he was nonetheless excellent in his role, one of the very few comedic parts he managed in his career. Charles Coburn sparkles as "Handsome" Harry Harrington, just as he excelled in a dozen or so other great films from the thirties, forties, and fifties. Eugene Palette, the finest Friar Tuck there ever was or ever could be, is delightful as Henry Fonda's beleaguered father. William Demarest is a fixture in nearly all of Preston Sturges's films, and while his role is not as large here as in some of the others (like HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS, or THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK), he nonetheless manages to steal nearly every scene he is in.THE LADY EVE is easily one of the most sexual films of the Hays era. There is a great deal of barely concealed sexual innuendo, beginning with the title ("Eve", the temptress), to the moment when Henry Fonda first climbs up the ladder onto the ocean liner that picks him up at the beginning of the movie (Barbara Stanwyck drops an apple that hits him on the head), to the extraordinary seduction scene (no sex, but at the end of the scene you know Henry Fonda goes back to his cabin for a long, cold shower). I am not sure that the forties ever pictured a man filled with greater sexual desire than when Henry was holding Barbara's leg while putting on her shoes, lost in her perfume. Indeed, the entire segment extending from the second when Barbara Stanwyck initiates meeting Henry by tripping him (one of six pratfalls he will take in the film, if one includes his falling in the mud upon disembarking from his "honeymoon" train) to her sending him out of her cabin in a state of intensely heightened sexual awareness, is utterly astonishing. As someone who grew up watching Barbara Stanwyck on THE BIG VALLEY, seeing that sequence for the first time was a revelation. I had no conception that the woman was that sexy. The greatest thing about THE LADY EVE is that it gets better with each viewing. I have to strongly disagreee with the editorial review of this film, when he says that it is hard to say whether BALL OF FIRE or THE LADY EVE is funnier: I have seen BALL OF FIRE and THE LADY EVE approximately four times and nine times respectively. The mark of a really great film is how it stands up to reviewing. BALL OF FIRE is great the first time but lessens somewhat upon reviewing (Howard Hawks is marvelous, but it is not one of his stronger films), but THE LADY EVE improves each time in every way. Like I said, in my opinion, one of the best romantic comedies ever made."
Charming Romantic Comedy
Westley | Stuck in my head | 08/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Barbara Stanwyck is at her comedic best in "The Lady Eve," playing a vamp who tries to con a gullible heir, played by Henry Fonda. Her plans hit a snag, though, when she finds herself falling for him, which leads to some madcap fun. Directed and co-written by the peerless Preston Sturges ("Sullivan's Travels"), "The Lady Eve" is among the finest of Hollywood 1940's romantic comedies. The script is quite brilliant (the movie received only one Oscar nomination, for its screenplay, which it lost to "Here Comes Mr. Jordan") and delivers some genuine laughs. In addition, the tinge of bitterness and cynicism that characterizes Sturges' work is here -- this movie isn't a sickly sweet romance. Sturges also manages to create a wacky screen couple and then make them seem believable; a formidable task. Finally, Fonda has never been better; his all-American looks and blank visage are put to perfect use to convey the innocence required for the role. Overall, a highly recommended film."
It's not easy being in love
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 02/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Preston Sturges' "The Lady Eve" is one of the best romantic comedies ever made, partly because while it's very funny, it's also hits a very deep nerve. It's painful to be in love, as both Charles Pike (a wonderfully gullible and naive Henry Fonda) and Jean Harrington (tough/tender Barbara Stanwyck at her very best) find out, the hard way. Stanwyck plays a card shark who along with her father (Charles Coburn) are on a cruise ship, with the express purpose of fleecing the other passengers. Charles Pike is a rich heir to a brewery fortune who's just spent the last year studying snakes in the Amazon. In the famous scene at the beginning of the film, Jean spots Charles in her compact mirror and then gives a running commentary of how every woman in the room is trying to attract the attention of this young, handsome, completely oblivious bachelor. When Charles walks by, Jean trips him. Her heel breaks off, and she browbeats Charles into accompanying her back to her cabin for a new pair of shoes. Thus begins one of the most sexually charged romances ever filmed.
While Jean's original intentions were malicious, she soon falls for Charles (whom she affectionately calls Flopsy) in a big way. Despite her husky voice and revealing dresses, there's something rather virginal and tender about Jean. Unlike many screwball comedy heroines, Jean doesn't put Flopsy down or try to outwit him. She idolizes him. When he discovers her occupation, he dumps her, and she's reduced to a huge puddle of tears. But ... hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. To give away any more of the plot would be criminal. Stanwyck and Fonda have wonderful chemistry, and while both of them are playing stereotyped, stock characters, they infuse their roles with so much heart and humanity. Barbara Stanwyck has a husky voice and a worldly personality, but she's also a wide-eyed romantic, which makes this movie so appealing. It's one of the movie's endearing aspects that both Flopsy and Jean are kinda ... nutty. It's a match made in heaven.
The Criterion Collection has less extras than usual, perhaps because all the participants of the film are long dead. There's an interview with Peter Bogdanovich, a commentary track with Marion Keane, a 1942 radio broadcast (with Ray Milland subbing for Honda), and some publicity stills. The audio and video transfer are excellent. Marion Keane's commentary track is very enjoyable. Unlike many commentary tracks, Keane doesn't spend an endless amount of time analyzing shots and angles and lighting. She comments more about the emotions and sexual innuendo in this movie. The Lady Eve is such a great film that the lack of a boatload of extras didn't bother me at all. I'm just grateful that this wonderful film is released on DVD.
The Lady Eve is great because at heart it's a really touching love story. When I watched the film the second time, I was surprised at how little "laugh out loud" funny moments there were. It's more romance than comedy, but therein lies it's strength. There are no cheap laughs. The Lady Eve is one of the few romantic comedies that also depicts genuine heartbreak. And it only gets better upon repeated viewings."
Clever, sparkling romantic comedy. A must for Barbara fans.
Ginge | Sydney | 11/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best romantic screwball comedies. Though it failed to really grab me the first time, the second viewing had me laughing. Barbara Stanwyck is perfect. If only she had done more comedies. The best, and the most romantic scenes occur when Barbara is the cardsharp Jean. Pretty hot too, when Henry is putting on Barbara's shoe, and when they discuss their ideal partners. No wonder Henry has said that he's been in love with Barbara since this film. Fluff this may seem to some, but Lady Eve is a well crafted, cleverly written and directed film, intelligently put together by real first class pros. Preston Sturges was one mad-cap talented man who really knew how to write. My favourite script of his, however, is "Remember The Night", a little known film, but what a knockout it is. And as great as Barbara and Hank are together in this film, I believe they were even funnier in that wonderful gem "The Mad Miss Manton(1938)". However, this is truely sophisticated stuff and an essential video to have in any collection."
Best actress, best picture
LF | USA | 10/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I very happily give this movie 5 stars. It is wonderful. Barbara Stanwyck steals the show with her wit and her charm. She's amazing. The supporting cast is great too, and I include Henry Fonda in the supporting cast, because it is Barbara's film and Henry is just the foil she plays on.
One of my favorite scenes comes early when Barbara takes Henry's head in her hands and toys with him, driving him crazy. Another wonderful scene is just before she meets him, when she is analyzing all the other women who are ogling him on the boat. But I can name pretty much every scene in this film as a special one.
So many of the old time movies are overrated. This one isn't. This one doesn't miss a beat through all the intervening years, and if it was released today just as it is, it would deserve the Oscar for Best Picture of 2005, while Barbara Stanwyck would easily win Best Actress of 2005. There is no one today who could touch her in this performance."