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92 of 97 people found the following review helpful
The gist of THE LADY EVE is ably summed up by Barbara Stanwyck's character in the first half of the film: "The good girls are never as good as they seem to be, and the bad ones never as bad." In this movie, Barbara plays Jean Harrington, a "bad girl" who is not as bad as she seems to be, who later pretends to be Eve Sidgwick, a "good girl" who isn't as good.
In my opinion, this is the greatest romantic comedy ever made. Other films may be more romantic, others funnier, but not a single one combines both elements so perfectly. Everything about this film sparkles. Preston Sturges, one of the finest screenwriters in the history of cinema, turned out one of his most perfect scripts.. The details, the transitions between scenes, the wit, the lightning pace, the superb oneliners, the cascading dialog, absolutely everything marks this as a Preston Sturges production. The cast is utterly beyond reproach. Absolutely no one in the history of film could have been more perfect in the central role as Barbara Stanwyck. Other men could have played the Henry Fonda part, but he was nonetheless excellent in his role, one of the very few comedic parts he managed in his career. Charles Coburn sparkles as "Handsome" Harry Harrington, just as he excelled in a dozen or so other great films from the thirties, forties, and fifties. Eugene Palette, the finest Friar Tuck there ever was or ever could be, is delightful as Henry Fonda's beleaguered father. William Demarest is a fixture in nearly all of Preston Sturges's films, and while his role is not as large here as in some of the others (like HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS, or THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK), he nonetheless manages to steal nearly every scene he is in.
THE LADY EVE is easily one of the most sexual films of the Hays era. There is a great deal of barely concealed sexual innuendo, beginning with the title ("Eve", the temptress), to the moment when Henry Fonda first climbs up the ladder onto the ocean liner that picks him up at the beginning of the movie (Barbara Stanwyck drops an apple that hits him on the head), to the extraordinary seduction scene (no sex, but at the end of the scene you know Henry Fonda goes back to his cabin for a long, cold shower). I am not sure that the forties ever pictured a man filled with greater sexual desire than when Henry was holding Barbara's leg while putting on her shoes, lost in her perfume. Indeed, the entire segment extending from the second when Barbara Stanwyck initiates meeting Henry by tripping him (one of six pratfalls he will take in the film, if one includes his falling in the mud upon disembarking from his "honeymoon" train) to her sending him out of her cabin in a state of intensely heightened sexual awareness, is utterly astonishing. As someone who grew up watching Barbara Stanwyck on THE BIG VALLEY, seeing that sequence for the first time was a revelation. I had no conception that the woman was that sexy.
The greatest thing about THE LADY EVE is that it gets better with each viewing. I have to strongly disagreee with the editorial review of this film, when he says that it is hard to say whether BALL OF FIRE or THE LADY EVE is funnier: I have seen BALL OF FIRE and THE LADY EVE approximately four times and nine times respectively. The mark of a really great film is how it stands up to reviewing. BALL OF FIRE is great the first time but lessens somewhat upon reviewing (Howard Hawks is marvelous, but it is not one of his stronger films), but THE LADY EVE improves each time in every way. Like I said, in my opinion, one of the best romantic comedies ever made.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 3, 2004
Barbara Stanwyck is at her comedic best in "The Lady Eve," playing a vamp who tries to con a gullible heir, played by Henry Fonda. Her plans hit a snag, though, when she finds herself falling for him, which leads to some madcap fun. Directed and co-written by the peerless Preston Sturges ("Sullivan's Travels"), "The Lady Eve" is among the finest of Hollywood 1940's romantic comedies. The script is quite brilliant (the movie received only one Oscar nomination, for its screenplay, which it lost to "Here Comes Mr. Jordan") and delivers some genuine laughs. In addition, the tinge of bitterness and cynicism that characterizes Sturges' work is here -- this movie isn't a sickly sweet romance. Sturges also manages to create a wacky screen couple and then make them seem believable; a formidable task. Finally, Fonda has never been better; his all-American looks and blank visage are put to perfect use to convey the innocence required for the role. Overall, a highly recommended film.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 1999
This is one of the best romantic screwball comedies. Though it failed to really grab me the first time, the second viewing had me laughing. Barbara Stanwyck is perfect. If only she had done more comedies. The best, and the most romantic scenes occur when Barbara is the cardsharp Jean. Pretty hot too, when Henry is putting on Barbara's shoe, and when they discuss their ideal partners. No wonder Henry has said that he's been in love with Barbara since this film. Fluff this may seem to some, but Lady Eve is a well crafted, cleverly written and directed film, intelligently put together by real first class pros. Preston Sturges was one mad-cap talented man who really knew how to write. My favourite script of his, however, is "Remember The Night", a little known film, but what a knockout it is. And as great as Barbara and Hank are together in this film, I believe they were even funnier in that wonderful gem "The Mad Miss Manton(1938)". However, this is truely sophisticated stuff and an essential video to have in any collection.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I recently discovered the NY Times list of "1000 best films ever," and if not for that list I would have never seen "The Lady Eve." As a child of the '70s the names Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda conjure up dramatic images of "The Big Valley" and "The Grapes of Wrath," not exactly the kind of thing I'd go out of my way to see. With the Times's recommendation, however, I decided to give this 1941 film a look.

Imagine my surprise to find Fonda showing such a wonderful flair for comedy! Having some familiarity with film history, I knew that Stanwyck in her day had been quite a femme fatale, and she certainly is here, but the innocent Fonda character wins her over...more or less. Their on-again, off-again romance carries almost as many plot twists as their are laughs in this wonderful film.

I'm one of those people who like the idea of "old movies" better than almost any specific old movie, but thanks to the Times I now have a clue as to which old films are really worth savoring. "The Lady Eve" is high on that list now, along with such as "Camilla" and "The Little Foxes" (I always knew about "Casablanca," at least). Why did it take me so long to find this gem? Nobody said anything about it. Shame on you older folks for keeping this secret to yourself! I guess it's up to latecomers like me to pass the word on to those of us under 50.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2001
Wow. This film is a stunner. It is also one of the best romantic comedies of the 1940s, or of any era. As usual, Preston Sturges's dialogue and situations sparkle with humor and wit, while his direction keeps the action moving quickly. Both Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda turn in perfect performances. There are also notable supporting turns by Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette, and Eric Blore (all practiced character actors that shined in romantic comedy). Several Sturges regulars also appear, notably William Demarest.
Stanwyck plays a con artist, who, with her father (Coburn), tricks unwary passengers on cruise ships. She decides that Fonda, a rich man who is heir to Pike's Pale [ale] fortune, will be her next victim. They meet "cute," as is required in an old romantic comedy: Stanwyck purposefully trips Fonda and breaks her shoe, then forces Fonda to take her to her room to replace it. The following scene on the chaise loungue is a keeper. Soon Fonda is falling under Stanwyck's spell, while Coburn is stealing his money at cards. But Stanwyck also finds herself falling in love, as she is slowly won over by Fonda's innocence. She decides to reform and give Fonda back his money. But then Fonda finds out that Stanwyck is a known criminal, and breaks up with her. Determined to have her revenge on Fonda for dumping her, Stanwyck disguises herself as the wealthy English "Lady Eve" and goes to Fonda's house. There, she quickly seduces him, without Fonda ever recognizing her. Then things get even more complicated. Of course, certain events result with our hero and heroine finally understanding each other and finding happiness.
This film is a treat from beginning to end (I loved the opening credits with the animated snake--nice Adam and Eve reference). Well worth the money. Also recommended: Easy Living, Hail the Conquering Hero (both also Sturges), Ball of Fire (also with Stanwyck), anything by Lubitsch.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2003
For those who already know that this is a delightful film: the print quality isn't awful, but it isn't as flawless as some of Criterion's other transfers. The transfer of Hitchcock's "Rebecca", for instance, looks much richer because there seem to be more shades of gray. Also, I was much more impressed with 20th Century Fox's restoration of "How Green Was My Valley" (same year as "The Lady Eve") than with this particular work. On the other hand, it doesn't look nearly as grainy as Criterion's transfer of "Trouble in Paradise" (1932), an older film.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2004
This is a great movie, one of my all time favorites. Stanwyck and Fonda make a perfect couple as they fall in and out of love with each other, sometimes literally. It's about a con artist name Jean played by Stanwyck who planned to seduce the millionaire Charles aka Hoppsy played by Fonda. But things went awry when she fell for him but it's too late when he found out her plans. After rejecting her she orchestrated a perfect revenge that even psychology cannot topple. The rest you have to watch.

Fonda is perfect for the part where his dignified persona was put into good use. I mean it's triple as amusing if not exactly laugh out loud funny in his multiple pratfalls. I wish he did more comedy in his career. But this film really showcased Barbara Stanwyck's gift as an actress. She gets to be funny, dramatic and sexy. In the classic scene where she and Fonda are in the bed seducing each other through words, it was just pitch perfect. Love it!

The film was silly due to its plot because it's definitely a screwball comedy only that it's more sophisticated and verbose than most in the genre. But because it was so well written how silly the plot may seem, the movie just works. The ending was particularly witty and clever.

I'm a little disappointed with the special features since this is criterion and it's really expensive compared to the other DVDs. I would really love to see a documentary on the making of the film.or a tribute to Stanwyck or Fonda. But there's a commentary here which I haven't listened to yet. There's some production photos which to my surprise was good and interesting by the way.

Grade: A- (I want more special features)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2004
I saw bits and pieces of The Lady Eve on Turner occasionally and never watched long enough to have an opinion one way or the other. I enjoyed Preston Sturges, Sullivan's Travels and realize he's one of the greats of American film comedy, so I rented The Lady Eve on a friend's recommendation. I enjoyed young handsome Henry Fonda and particularly Barbara Stanwyck. Barbara Stanwyck is not a favorite actress of mine. Maybe it's her brassy delivery and non-leading lady face, but I've changed my mind. Barbara is without a doubt the equal of Claudette Colbert or Carole Lombard in screwball comedy. She might be better. There is a burning intensity, a wistfulness in her delivery of: "Sometimes a good girl can be bad and a bad girl can be good." Fonda has been in the Amazon for a year and on a ship home he runs into a family of card sharks. Barbara traps him, he trips, falls, lands on his ass, and holds her stocking foot. Then they fall in love in some of the most romantic photography of a beautiful couple ever shot. The farce goes on to its final brilliance. There is one pratfall that made me laugh out loud for five minutes. Preston Sturgis is one of the best five directors in all of film.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2002
This is a fantastic screwball comedy! Like all of Sturges films, it is very witty and fast paced. Additionally, like many of the other Sturges films, it manages to get away with a lot for a movie made in the 1940s (when movies were still under the Hays production code).
Essentially, The Lady Eve is the story of a naive (but very wealthy) adventurer right out of the Amazon, played by Henry Fonda (in his only screwball performance) who meets a sly and sexy girl named Eve, played by Barbara Stanwyck on a boat and immediately falls for her. When, however, he realizes she and her father are really professional gamblers who roam around getting money from people by playing card games, he is furious and leaves her. The rest of the movie deals with her hilarious efforts to win him back under a different name - that of the Lady Eve Sidwich.
This movie keeps the laughs coming at a frantic pace! The DVD is great - this is a must have. If you haven't seen it yet, get ready for a great time!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2002
I recently watched the Criterion DVD edition of this classic Preston Sturges comedy and was amazed as with every time that I watch it at how amazingly funny and enjoyable it is to view. My pick as the best of the glory period of filmmaking by Mr. Sturges, this movie simply does not age or lose any of it's greatness, viewing after viewing, year after year. Barbara Stanwyck simply radiates as "The Lady Eve", and is the marvelous core around which the movie is centered. Do yourself a favor and rent, buy or borrow a copy of this wonderful movie (The Criterion DVD, if possible), and sit back and be prepared to be entertained by a movie that definitely will keep you returning again and again to what is in my opinion the best of all the "screwball" comedies that came out in the 30's and 40's, and one of the best comedies flat out ever made!
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