Monday, July 28, 2008

The Great Movies: "The Lady Eve"

The Lady Eve
Preston Sturges, 1941

The Lady Eve is a likeable screwball romantic comedy made while the United States was staggering out of the Depression towards World War II. It offers a giddy look at high life at a time when "the boats aren't running" to Europe and everyone is more than a little on edge. Although not especially naughty, this is definitely a film made for adults, and a careful observer can read between the lines to discover that, in the late 1930s, people thought about sex a lot! I'll be. Also, a strong dash of physical humor is more than balanced by bracingly snappy writing. Despite the pratfalls, it's genuine grown-up wit on offer here.

Plot: Jane Stanwyck plays a professional cardsharp who makes her living fleecing fellow passengers on passenger liners; Henry Fonda plays a guy taking a trip on a passenger liner. So, you already know how the movie ends. Surprisingly, though, there are enough twists and turns before we get to the inevitable conclusion that things are kept amusing and even a little suspenseful.

Visuals: This movie is more about characters and dialogue than images. Ebert, however, justly points out a very long, one-shot scene where Stanwyck's character, having lured Our Hero back to her stateroom, thoroughly seduces him as his sits frozen in sheer shy terror. It's pretty cute.

Dialogue: Funny, and sometimes even subtle. Modern comedies, alas, are at best wry and ironic, and you rarely see one that pours on the snappy dialogue. Watching The Lady Eve made me jealous of an era where a director could throw one-liners at you too fast for you to catch them all.

Prognosis: Not a Great Movie, really, but diverting enough. If you like the old black and whites, you should enjoy this one. It might be a good date movie, especially if you are dating a professional cardsharp.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Gotta admit, you've sold me on this one. (You're not surprised, are you? Granted, I was sold at "likeable screwball romantic comedy"; the details were just lagniappe.)