The Lady Eve. Preston Sturges. 1941. ⚅
Oh right! This is a Preston Sturges movie! I made an effort to buy his movies a while ago, and then forgot all about it.
I watched Sullivan’s Travels the other year and was absolutely bowled over by it, so I wanted to watch all his other films, too.
[half an hour passes]
This is such a delight. Barbara Stanwyck is amazing and Henry Fonda somehow seems… sexy? in his nerdishness, which is very unusual. William Demarest as Fonda’s minder is a perfect hard-nosed guy.
I’m not sure the plot makes that much sense — why is the grifter daddy so shortsighted and working against the daughter? It seems like he’d be able to fleece Fonda a whole lot more by not making waves.
But it makes for really fun scenes, which is the point, I guess.
It’s not a perfect movie (it’s a bit flabby in the middle), but it’s fantastic. I laughed out loud several times at the antics in the last fifth of the movie, but it was thoroughly amusing throughout.
I find it fascinating how much the movie was on the side of Stanwyck (as the grifter) and not on the side of Honda (as the patsy): He’s a nerd, and not a very likeable one. She’s smart and funny, and the movie leans so hard into this that it’s not always clear why Stanwyck really wants to get into his pants this much. I mean, besides the money, which really doesn’t seem like a motivating factor after a while.
It’s such an original set-up: Any other director would have made the Honda character more active, but Sturges leaves all the action up to Stanwyck.