Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Lady Eve (1941)

Rapid-fire con-artist comedy from the great Preston Sturges fairly shimmers with mad invention. The key is in the casting. Barbara Stanwyck is sweet, seductive and silly as the scheming, lovestruck title character, while Henry Fonda brings just the right combination of awkwardness and guilelessness to his part -- he's just nebbishy enough without seeming pathetic. The hilarious setpieces just cascade one after the other (the highlight being the scene where Stanwyck and Charles Coburn attempt to out-cheat each other at a game of poker). The massive dollops of snake imagery undoubtedly mean something (Stanwyck as a snake of sorts, shedding her skin and becoming other people at the drop of a hat?), and the phallic significance is also not to be discounted; meanwhile, there is also an unexpected Hitler joke. You wouldn't think that a hybrid this unwieldy (it's a con-artist movie! it's slapstick! it's screwball! it's a romantic comedy!) would work at all, but remember that "con" is short for "confidence." This movie has stolen my heart. Hell yeah.

Grade: A


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