The Lady Eve
Directed by Preston Sturges; Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette
From the opening cartoon credit sequence, Preston Sturges's romantic screwball comedy The Lady Eve presents the viewer with a fast-paced battle of the sexes. Things are never quite as they seem in this film of mistaken identities, saucy dialogue and seduction run rampant throughout this picture. Released in 1941, The Lady Eve dances around the 1934 Production Code which eliminated racy language, scandalous behavior, and actresses in scanty lingerie from films.
Ophiologist and ale-heir Charlie "Hopsie" Pike (Henry Fonda) prepares to leave his Garden of Eden in the Amazon jungle and return to New York. Once the Charlie is aboard the S.S. Southern Queen Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck), a cardshark and a no-nonsense seductress, has him in the palm of her hand. Her quick and witty character assessment of Charles establishes her clever and feisty status. In the famous shoe-fitting scene (a challenge of Hollywood Production Code) sexual innuendos abound as Jean mocks Charlie's virginal persona. What Jean doesn't realize is that it's "in the cards" for her to fall in love with "Hopsie."
Charlie learns of Jean's duplicitous nature and upon his departure, Jean vows for revenge by masquerading as an English aristocrat, The Lady Eve Sidwich. True to classic screwball comedy form, Charlie quite literally "falls" for her. Eve/Jean maintains the upper hand once the two marry only to have Eve hilariously reveal her past love affairs to Charlie hours later. Charlie leaves Eve/Jean, and instead of seeking a large divorce settlement Eve decides that she really loves Charlie and wants him back. Ultimately, the temptress is tempted back to Charlie in the idyllic Garden of Eden aboard another cruise ship, and the two are happily reunited in a classic scene of love conquering all.