Film Review – The Lady Eve (1941, Criterion Collection)

The Lady Eve is a screwball comedy released in 1941, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. Based on a story called Two Bad Hats by Monckton Hoffe and is directed by Preston Sturges.

Fonda plays Charles Pike, an ophiologist (snake expert) who is also the heir to a brewery fortune, who boards a ship after a year’s expedition in the Amazon. Already onboard watching is Jean (Barbara Stanwyck) and her father played by Charles Coburn, card sharks who recognising him as rich, plan to con him out of his money. After watching him walk towards them she trips him, leading to a great scene between the two of them in her cabin with Fonda brilliantly showing Charles’ awkwardness as Jean strokes his hair. Their plan starts to fall apart after she finds herself falling for him, which leads to another hilarious scene of Jean and her father trying to out cheat each other.

After Charles proposes,his valet (William Demarest) finds proof of Jean’s plan and Charles leaves her, which results in Jean hatching another plan to get back at him involving her hiding in plain sight and integrating herself into his family and social circle for the chance at robbing him of even more money than originally intended.

The chemistry between Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck really shows throughout the film and its amazing to think that they weren’t the first choices, or even second, for the roles. The roles originally going to Fred MacMurray and Madeleine Carroll. The acting is also first class all around, Stanwyck especially standing out stealing every scene she is in, and Fonda showing his comedic skills in the 2nd half of the film with a long scene of one pratfall after another.

Overall its a good film that i would recommend to anyone, I preferred the more dramatic and subdued first half rather than the sometimes over the top second that really pushes the comedy. The transfer is great, a brand new 4k restoration, one of the better, more crisp that criterion have put out for a film of its age.

From the special features on the disc I would recommend the conversation between Tom Sturges the directors son, Peter Bogdanovich and critic Leonard Maltin amongst some others, and the Lux Radio Theatre adaption of the film from 1942 featuring Stanwyck again and Ray Milland.

★★★1/2


Comedy, Romance | USA, 1941 | PG | 10th August 2020 (UK) | Blu-Ray | Sony Pictures Releasing /Criterion Collection |Dir.Preston Sturges | Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, William Demarest

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the
Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2001 featuring film professor Marian Keane
Introduction from 2001 by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
Interview from 2020 with writer-director Preston Sturges’s biographer and son Tom Sturges and friends
New video essay by film critic David Cairns
Costume designs by Edith Head
Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1942 featuring Barbara Stanwyck and Ray Milland
Audio recording of “Up the Amazon,” a song from an unproduced stage musical based on the film
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a 1946 profile of Preston Sturges from LIFE magazine

USA | 1941 | 93 MINUTES | BLACK & WHITE | 1.37:1 | ENGLISH

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