Monday, August 3, 2009

The Lady Eve (1941)

Barbara Stanwyck is a tough cardsnipe who tries to take naive rich boy Hentry Fonda for a con, only to fall in love with him.

Barbara Stanwyck is Jean Harrington, a cardsnipe who travels from boat to boat with her father setting wealthy men up in card games to take them for all they're worth. So when Charlie Pike, son of a wealthy Ale maker boards their ship, Jean sets about romancing the poor fool and robbing him blind. unfortunately she falls in love with him, and to make matters worse, Charlie finds out what she is, lies and states that he was on to her the entire time and was only playing her for a sap and they part ways on the boat, leaving Jean broken-hearted and full of hate.

She plans to get her revenge, however, but showing up at Charlie's father's house as The lady Eve, winning Charlie over and then breaking his heart just like he broke hers. But, given that this is a romantic comedy, things don't necessarily work out that way.

Let's get this out of the way, Barbara Stanwyck is fantastic in this movie, especially when you consider that she's really only her "true" self a few times, and most of the time she's pretending to be someone else. She makes Jean tough, but still vulnerable, and she gives her an intelligence that makes her a believable card snipe and smart enough to realize that being in love with a man you've only known for a few days is pretty silly.

Henry Fonda is good as well. Making his character appear to be clumsy, naive and spoiled, but never to the point where he's unlikable. He has the task of making it appear believable that he could fall in love with the same woman twice, and it really works.

If there's any real fault with the film, it's that the comedy aspect of it is very light. I didn't find the film particularly humorous, but I still enjoyed the lightheartedness of it, as well as the script and the acting.

The film itself feels very brisk, despite being an hour and 40 minutes long, it seemed to fly by, which is great because it never seems to wear out its welcome.

While I wish the film would have been a bit funnier, the acting more than makes up for it, particularly on the part of Barbara Stanwyck. It may stretch your suspension of disbelief (though, the film plays on that by having on character constantly insist that Jean and Eve are the "same dame"), but it's a good film that's become a "must-see" when it comes to screwball comedies.

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