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Wick's Review

Created May 20, 2013 09:49PM PST • Edited Mar 12, 2015 11:38AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    Preston Sturges made RomComs that are funny, sexy, glamorous, clever and sophisticated.

    The Lady Eve proves the point. It still works three quarters of a century later, especially with the proto-modern Barbara Stanwyck as the minx in the middle of a screwball con-game extraordinaire.

    Modern audiences shouldn’t shy away.

    Funny, sexy, glamorous, clever and sophisticated never go out of style.

  3. Great 4.0

    Barbara Stanwyck’s clear, unsentimental delivery works perfectly for her con queen, an evil minx with occasional flashes of humanity. Influential film critic Pauline Kael once noted “Stanwyck’s remarkable modernism,” a trait bracingly evident in The Lady Eve.

    Henry Fonda’s mannish boy seems younger than 35, Fonda’s age when the movie was made. Still, the great Fonda is a wonderful screen presence: endearing, upright and capable of playing comedy.

    They are supported by several legendary character actors.

    • Charles Coburn’s Hollywood career began at age 60. No one was better at playing self-important men of substance.
    • William Demarest’s rough hewn bodyguard adds grit to the proceedings. A Preston Sturges regular, Demarest later played Uncle Charley on My Three Sons.
    • Eric Blore as a fancy-pants conman.
  4. Male Stars Great 4.0
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Really Great 4.5
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Preston Sturges wrote and directed this gem during a furious five-year burst of activity from `39 to `43.

    • One of seven movies he made during that half decade
    • Four of them – The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels and two others – have been declared among the 100 funniest movies of all time by the AFI. No argument here.

    Sturges deals confidently in extreme cultural archetypes, starting with a rich heir, the ultimate catch from when catching a substantial man was the unquestioned goal of most any woman.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    Brilliant direction. The shipboard scene with all the departing passengers shouting goodbyes from along the rails typifies.

  10. Play Perfect 5.0

    She always tells him the truth, other than her name. IOW, she warns him, but he falls for her anyway.

    Great lines!

    • “What do you expect when you bet on a goat called ‘After You?’”
    • “I need him like the ax needs the turkey.”
    • Deals with the war deftly. WWII. “Didn’t know the ships were running.” Battleships.
    • “Pull in your head, we’re coming to a tunnel” just as the war between the sexes gets frantic.
  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Really Great 4.5

    IMDb notes that “Stanwyck’s Edith Head-designed wedding gown caused a fashion sensation. So much so that it was copied for brides and called ‘the Lady Eve dress.’”

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.7

    Being mildly risqué went a long way in 1941.

    Imagine what a Lady Eve character would do today to get over on a rich guy. Wardrobe malfunctions, bikinis and an oral fixation would only begin to tell the tale. Ya feel me.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.7
  16. Violence Gentle 1.5
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.8
  18. Glib 1.7

    Screwball comedy scores highest on Circumstantial Reality, though the incomparable Preston Sturges didn’t need to go too high. Midway into the Surreal was enough for him.

    The Lady Eve was made during the Great Depression, when wealth was ridiculed, not reviled. Today it’s reviled, though times aren’t nearly as dire as they were right before World War II put everybody to work.

  19. Circumstantial Surreal 2.4
  20. Biological Glib 1.4
  21. Physical Glib 1.3

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