Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Lady Eve (1941)

Directed by Preston Sturges. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, and Charles Coburn.

"Screwball comedy" has never been my favorite genre- I've never cared for MY MAN GODFREY or BRINGING UP BABY, for example- but I'm a fan of Preston Sturges' movies, and this is my favorite of his. The main reason why his films are an exception to the rule is because the characters in his work are fully-realized instead of being cartoonish, and this one features some great ones. Fonda's shy millionaire and Stanwyck's spirited con artist are a pleasure to behold, and as the film observes them gravitating toward each other, away, and then back together again, we can't help but root for them. There's also some great character acting in the supporting roles, with the cultivated Coburn acting as Stanwyck's father figure (though whether they're actually related remains a mystery), William Demarest as Fonda's suspicious servant, and the froglike Eugene Pallette croaking out his dialogue as Fonda's cranky dad. When the laughs come, they don't come at the expense of the characters so much as they spring out of the characters, which makes us laugh even more

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