Friday, April 20, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Lady Eve (1941) ***

NR, 94 min.
Director: Preston Sturgess
Writers: Preston Sturgess, Monkton Hoffe (story)
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, William Demarest, Eric Blore, Melville Cooper

You just have to love the preposterousness of the set ups they used to come up with for old romantic screwball comedies. So Henry Fonda is this heir to a very popular brewing company. Barbara Stanwyck is a con artist who wants to grift him but ends up falling in love with him. I guess the writers really wanted to start their story out on a cruise ship, so instead of having some metropolitan Meet Cute, they make Fonda an explorer as well. He’s been finding exotic snakes in South America I guess, but must get back to the States and stops a cruise ship to sail him home. He’s super rich, so it could happen. Wow. That’s a lot of work to go through just to set up your romantic comedy. But hey, it’s a whole lot more interesting than just knocking her newly nicked clothes all over the pavement on 5th Avenue.

When I was very young, like maybe seven, I think I had a crush on Barbara Stanwyck. Certainly an understandable state for a man, whatever the age, or sexuality for that matter.  My problem was that the only thing I actually knew her from was television’s “Big Valley”. She was my grandmother’s age (actually older). I knew a crush wasn’t right. But she was such a beautiful and powerful woman; it was impossible to deny either her beauty or her strength. To see her go a little gaga over Fonda as a bit of a doofus here is kind of a different light in which to see her. I like it, though. It humanizes her.

Now, “The Lady Eve” may not be one of the best black and whites with which to start if you haven’t seen a lot of the oldies. It’s a lot of fun, but the differences in story telling conventions are pretty jarring here. The set ups are quick and a little riddled with gaps. I think movies didn’t play down to their audiences so much back then. If they lost you, they weren’t very worried 

No comments: