THE LADY EVE (1941) B/W 97m dir: Preston Sturges
w/Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, William Demarest, Eugene Pallette, Eric Blore, Melville Cooper, Martha O'Driscoll, Janet Beecher, Robert Greig
Sturges was the best comedy director of the '40s, and he was equally good at light romance, satire, slapstick, and even a stray serious moment. In this gem, Fonda is an innocent beer heir with an interest in snakes. Stanwyck is a con woman with an interest in Fonda.
From The Movie Guide: "THE LADY EVE is one of Sturges' best romantic comedies, with just the right blend of satire and slapstick, the laughs coming mostly from his clever, often inspired comedic lines. His direction is flawless, and the cast, from stars to stock players, performs beautifully. Stanwyck, in particular, is a is an effortless comedienne. She pitches much of her performance into a kind of hushed, urgent, intimate whisper. When she talks to Fonda, she's constantly toying with him, touching him like a fetish, and she's always in his face, often looking at his lips. Then out snakes a a sexy leg --- a very sexy leg --- and over he topples. There's an unparalleled moment early on, when she narrates his movements, taking his part and every woman's who attempts to trap him in conversation, while watching the action backwards in her compact mirror. It's a daring, roguish display of her talent; one can't imagine any comedienne --- even Colbert or Russell --- bringing it off as she does. Sturges, who began as a contract scriptwriter for Paramount, promised Stanwyck that he would write a great comedy for her some day, and she got it."
THE LADY EVE was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Story (Monckton Hoffe, who wrote "The Faithful Heart," the story upon which Sturges based his screenplay).