It’s no accident when wealthy Charles falls for Jean–she is a con artist with her sights set on his fortune. But matters complicate when she starts falling for him. When Charles suspects Jean is a gold digger, he dumps her. Jean, fixated on revenge, devises a plan to re-conquer him.
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based on the two of his works I've seen, Sturges loves people, in a manner similar to Lubitsch. He explores the difficulties of love in a stiflingly strict moral society and elucidates the shortcomings of that binary structure of right or wrong; people are more complex, the moral spectrum more gradient. Even crooks are not morally devoid and deserve deeper consideration. Also, it was hilarious.
Awfully close to being the sort of trite, self-satisfied Golden Age costume drama I generally abhor. Imagine my surprise when I fell completely in love with it. Fonda and Stanwyck are a match made in heaven -- their banter is so charming, earnest and genuine (especially in contrast with Classical Hollywood's predominantly flowery, OTT approach to love). Sturges' clever script and a colorful supporting cast help too.
Fave scenes: Jean narrating all the women trying to get Pike's attention as she watches with her makeup mirror; Jean's reaction to Emma, the snake; the card game in which Jean thwarts the Colonel from getting his money back; and Lady 'Eve' Sidwich holding court w/ Pike's father. Though all the supporting players were great, Stanwick didn't steal the show, she was the show and a highly entertaining one!
Is there a better female romantic comedy performance than Stanwyck's in this film? There are plenty of wonderful ones such as Claudette Colbert in "Midnight" or Margaret Sullavan in "The Shop Around The Corner" or Katharine Hepburn in "Holiday" but Stanwyck's performance in "The Lady Eve" is such a dazzling achievement. Her line readings are so subtle and so funny and sensitive too.
Among the two or three greatest comedies of the sound era. During Preston Struges' great run of the mid-1940s, The Lady Eve outshines them all, which is seriously saying something. Stanwyck proves her versatility here...it's amazing to think that this is the same actress who three years later would play the coldhearted Phyllis Dietrichson!