Classic Movie Review: Lady Eve (1941)

Title: Lady Eve
Release Date: February 25, 1941
Director: Preston Sturges
Production Company: Paramount Pictures

Another day, another screwball comedy.  And this may be the screwiest one yet, because a lot of the plot is simply not at all logical.  But put aside logic and enjoy that gags and you have a good film.

Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) is a shy young man (Fonda is good at playing reserved, but morally-centered characters) and reluctant heir to a brewery fortune. Returning to the U.S. on an ocean liner from the Amazon after studying snakes for a year,  Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) and her stunning cheekbones come into his life.  He falls for her quickly and they’re discussing marriage before the ship even docks.

But there’s a twist! Jean and her father, “Colonel” Harrington (Charles Coburn), are card sharps, and Charles is their mark.  In another twist, Jean legitimately loves him in return, and protects him from being taken by her father.  Nevertheless, when Charles discovers the truth about Jean, he breaks off their relationship.

Learning of a con to swindle wealthy Connecticut families, including the Pikes, Jean jumps at the chance to join in, putatively to get revenge for Charles dumping her.  She pretends to be a British aristocrat named Lady Eve Sidwich, and Stanwyck is absolutely hilarious putting on her posh English accent and mannerisms.  Charles is stunned by Eve’s resemblance to Jean, but rationalizes that Jean would disguise herself better, and thus accepts she’s a different woman.  They fall in love, and humorously,Charles uses the same lines to propose to “Eve” that he used on Jean.

After they marry, things get really weird.  I mean it’s still funny, but also left me saying “huh?”  All in all a good comic film with great performances by Stanwyck and Fonda.

Rating: ***1/2

Classic Movie Review: My Favorite Wife (1940)

Title: My Favorite Wife
Release Date: May 17, 1940
Director: Garson Kanin
Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures

Producer Leo McCarey, who directed The Awful Truth, reunites with Irene Dunn and Cary Grant for another great screwball comedy. The film begins with Nick Arden (Grant) getting his wife Ellen (Dunn) declared legally dead after she’s been missing for 7 years.  He then immediately marries Bianca (Gail Patrick, who was wonderful in My Man Godfrey, but unfortunately doesn’t get much to here other than react to the weirdness around her). Of course Ellen wasn’t dead at all, merely shipwrecked on a desert island, and she returns home that very same day.

Nick struggles to find a way to tell Bianca that his first wife is alive, and all sorts of hijinx ensue. Nick is also insanely jealous that Ellen shared the island with the handsome and athletic Stephen Burkett (Randolph Scott), and that they called each other “Adam” and “Eve”.  Eventually Nick’s bigamy gets sorted out through the efforts of the befuddled Judge Bryson (Granville Bates in one of the film’s most comical roles), but Nick says he needs to “think it over” regarding and so Ellen torments him in true screwball comedy heroine fashion.  The Arden kids (Scotty Beckett and Mary Lou Harrington) are much more resilient regarding their mother’s surprise return, and Dunn’s performance in the scene where she reveals her true identity is very moving.

It was bound to happen as I worked my way through a list of classic movies I’d never seen before, but so many elements of My Favorite Wife are so familiar I certainly have watched it already. In fact, it feels like I watched it relatively recently, but can’t figure out why I didn’t blog about it.  At any rate, it’s an enjoyable comedy that was worth watching again.

Rating: ***1/2