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4.5 out of 5 stars
Easy Living (Universal Cinema Classics)
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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2008
Jean Arthur was one of the greatest screen actresses of the 1930s and early 1940s, but because she worked semi-independently (she had non-exclusive contracts with Paramount, RKO, Columbia and United Artists), her combined work has been little seen in these days of box sets. With a great Preston Sturges script, and expert direction by the much-underrated Mitchell Leisen, EASY LIVING is one of the best examples of her work: a working-class girl (Arthur) is sitting atop an open-air bus when a millionaire (the inimitable Edward Arnold) flings his wife's fur coat out the window and it lands on Arthur's head. Hilarious complications ensue, which include a young Ray Milland as the millionaire's son and the always-great Mary Nash (Hepburn's mother in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY) as the coat-less wife. But it is Jean Arthur, whose wonderful combination of dizziness and indomitablility, that make this spin merrily along, and it is a delight form start to finish. Columbia (Sony) has the bulk of the best Arthur titles in its library (MR. DEEDS, MR. SMITH, YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, MORE THE MERRIER, TOO MANY HUSBANDS, TALK OF THE TOWN, ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS), but the MCA/Paramount titles are also pretty prime (A FOREIGN AFFAIR, THE PLAINSMAN, SHANE and EASY LIVING), and a mini-box set would be greatly anticipated. MCA has done extremely well by several of its great Paramount stars (Lombard, Dietrich) but we need more Colbert, more Stanwyck, deHavilland, Rogers, Russell, Goddard, Fontaine et al. The announcement of some other gems on their release schedule (the divine MIDNIGHT and THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR) is cause for celebration; let's hope this really is the beginning of a great trend!
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2002
In retrospect, this little 1937 flick holds up as one of the funniest screwball comedies of the thirties. Loud millionaire J.B. Ball tells his extravagantly aggressive wife (Mary Nash) that she cannot keep her $58,000 Sable coat. Ball throws it out of the upper window of their mansion where it happens to fall right on top of bewildered Mary Smith (Arthur), who's travelling on an open-air bus. Mary's a poor gal who works for a magazine similar to BOY'S LIFE. Arnold is seen buying Mary a new hat by pussy-cat faced gossip Franklin Pangborn and soon she gets more than just a hat: practically all of New York is at her feet. The scene where she and Milland wreak havoc at the now-obsolete automat is truly inspired and hilarious, as is Luis Alberni - as Louis Louis - when he shows Mary her new "quarters" -- i.e. "And make it snappa...Thaank Yewww". The rather offbeat cast works wonders with the great Preston Sturges script: Milland and Nash make a weird son and wife to the always good (and always loud) Edward Arnold, but somehow it makes for better screwball; the whacko cast helps push the one-joke material through to a happy finish, and the movie helped establish Jean Arthur as a comedienne of the first rank. P.S. While listening to Arthur's wonderfully off-beat voice, I realised it reminded me a little of Julie Harris (!).
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 1998
Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, a baby Ray Milland, and the beginnings of what became known as the Sturges Players combine for a tight little screwball comedy. This was not available on video until just recently, but if you enjoy the old madcap comedies, ala MY MAN GODFREY, NOTHING SACRED, and Preston Sturges romps like PALM BEACH STORY, THE LADY EVE, etc, I'm confident in recommending EASY LIVING. I didn't notice Sturges wrote it until the final credits, but that didn't alter my feelings. This is an under-appreciated jewel!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Easy Living is one of the best screwball comedies of the depression era. Jean Arthur (Talk Of The Town, Shane) is a poor working girl who comes into sundry luxuries coincidentally, causing the loss of her job and apartment. Edward Arnold (Meet John Doe, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington), is her anonymous benefactor, a well-intentioned but cantankerous prominent banker who throws his wife's extravagant fur coat out the window of their skyscraper. It lands on Arthur, who tries to return it, but he makes a gift of it to her, and insists on replacing her damaged hat with an expensive one as well, making her late for work, causing the job loss which in turn costs her to miss paying rent.

But the hat store proprietor (Franklin Pangborn) recognized Arnold and spreads the misinformation that Arthur is his mistress. One thing leads to another, and she finds herself put up rent free in a grand hotel suite. Meanwhile, she meets Arnold's son (Ray Milland, of Lost Weekend, Panic In Year Zero, etc.) by coincidence. He's trying to make it on his own as a waiter in an automat, so she has no idea of his connection with Arnold, and vice versa. Milland's character having the same last name, of course, as his father, reinforces the misinformation propogated by hotel clerks, stock brokers, and others, resulting in an interesting situation exploited for plenty of laughs.

The script was written by Preston Sturges and while I think the story could have been improved, the performances by Arthur and Arnold make it pleasant and funny. Arthur is cute and funny as ever, and Arnold is funnier than expected due to his disagreeable and argumentative - though honest and generous - character, which his performance makes work.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 1999
Day-traders alert. Cut yourself on every line of this witty, fast-paced and knowing movie that glories in the talents of Jean Arthur, et al. As tight as a fist, construction-wise, it traverses ostentation, banking (and ostentation), stock market manipulation (and ostentation) and that thing called real-honest-to-goodness, in-the-belly hunger. Arnold, Milland and the (forgive me) unnamed actor who plays the hotel proprietor (should have stayed cook) to hilarious effect are all wonderful. But Jean Arthur demonstrates yet again what an underrated talent she was: energy, sweet timing and mercurial delights - poured into the camera.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2008
Jean Arthur shines in this brilliant screwball comedy from 1937. Preston Sturges wrote the brilliantly funny screenplay and Mitchell Leisen directed. All the jewelry and furs Arthur wears in the film are REAL. They had to have security guards posted on the set!

The premise; excitable Wall Street banker, Edward Arnold has a fight with his wife and throws her new fur coat down from the top of their 5th Avenue mansion. What happens to the person it lands on is the story (poor Jean Arthur going to work sitting on the top of an open-air bus).

Brilliant performances from all; Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland, Esther Dale, Franklin Pangborn, Luis Albeti and others are letter-perfect.

Many wild comedies of the 1930's are grouped in as being 'Screwball'. This one IS screwball and Sturges practically invented the artform.

Now...if some of Arthur's other great films would be released; "If You Could Only Cook", "The Devil and Miss Jones", "The Whole Town's Talking".

This is absolutely a must-have.

Also released with this brilliant comedy are three other must-haves; "The Major and The Minor", "Midnight" and "She Done Him Wrong".

By the way, the other reviewer had it wrong; from 1935 through 1944, Arthur had an exclusive contract with Columbia Pictures and many of her best movies were done as loan-outs. She did not have a 'non-exclusive' contract.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 11, 2008
Jean Arthur never made a better comedy, and that's saying something! With a surfeit of superb set-pieces, and unequalled writing, Easy Living sashays giddily along the avenues of depression American, spewing forth hilarity like so many wildcat strikes. So miraculous is Sturges' touch he almost seems a comic rhabdomancist, as gushers of comedy break forth in a supernormal even surrealist display of the most ribald imagination possible. Backed with the underrated Mitch Leisen's stylish direction this gem of a film just get's better with age.

Heroine Jean Arthur, down to her last dime, decides to break open her piggybank - but soft-hearted Jean can't do it - she has to first tie a blindfold around the piggy's eyes before smashing it open! Every math teacher in the world will crack up as Edward Arnold, in his usual role as the great man of business, this time as a prominent banker, spends a fruitless five minutes in the backseat of his limo trying to explain the trap of compound interest payments to shopgirl Jean, who insists she knows arithmetic better than he does and drives him half-crazy when she can't follow his reasoning.

And on and on all leading up to the legendary Automat scene with Ray Milland and Jean Arthur creating utter chaos at the food automat.

If you like Jean Arthur, or Preston Sturges, and you haven't yet seen this doozy of a screwball comedy - now you can! Don't miss it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2012
It's in black and white! I almost didn't buy this DVD because it was advertized as being in color. I despise colorized B&W movies. But I love Preston Sturges and Jean Arthur, so I ordered it anyway. I was so pleased to find it was in B&W. This is a great movie. Jean Arthur and Edward Arnold are hilareous. If you like screwball comedies, get this movie. You won't regret it
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This movie borders on being a little too contrived. However, it manages to pull off the comedy smoothly in the end. The story centers around a young girl being mistaken for being a rich banker's mistress and how she is all of a sudden being offered free stays at rich hotels and the like. All from people who are hoping to cash in on her supposed status as mistress. In the end, though, she finds true love from a nice fellow in the form of Ray Milland who also happens to be the rich banker's son. And he finds out how to apply himself to his work. It makes for some nice laughs and light-hearted entertainment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2005
I could tell you how the movie runs the gamut from touching down and out scenes of a poor working girl to the luxurious farce that is played,but the dialougue is so sharp and sassy,witty and clever that all the characters seem to carry this film into the arena of great madcap screwball comedies.My 15 year old daughter loves this film so much she took it from my 25 film collection of Jean Arthur into her own...she has only one film in her collection.
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