“I need him like the axe needs the turkey.”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
What’s most memorable about The Lady Eve, however, are the performances by the odd-couple leads — both at the top of their game. Peary accurately notes that Fonda (never the most exciting of actors) “will surprise you with his skillful pratfalls” (they’re numerous, and all exceedingly well-done), and argues that “Stanwyck is so personable and vivacious that you feel… all the men whose money she stole got their money’s worth”. Peary names Stanwyck Best Actress of the Year in his Alternate Oscars book for 1941, though he ultimately selects her performance in Ball of Fire over this one simply because he “likes her character better” in that film; but he rightfully argues that she’s “flawless in both comedies”. Her complex character here undergoes a tremendous character arc, allowing herself to unexpectedly fall in love, then reverting to wily cynicism when her heart is broken, and magically transforming into a glamorous, seductive, yet hilarious noblewoman who convincingly has dozens of men literally drooling at her feet. She bats not an eye when silently daring Fonda to doubt the veracity of her outrageous assumed persona — yet we can easily see both her vulnerability and her scorned-woman wrath hovering close beneath the surface.
Peary culminates his brief review of The Lady Eve by arguing that the “film would match Sullivan’s Travels” — which he nominates as Best Picture of the Year in his Alternate Oscars — “if it didn’t peter out near the end”; however, I’m actually a bigger fan of this title, made the same year. I disagree completely that the film’s ending (reminiscent, in a way, of the denouement to Billy Wilder’s The Major and the Minor) is a cop-out; as Ebert puts it in his “Greatest Films” review, the final two lines are “equal to the classic line ‘Nobody’s perfect!” at the end of Some Like It Hot.” A final kudos should be given to Edith Head and her minions for a set of marvelous outfits; Stanwyck has never looked more enticing. As Peary puts it, “cheers to her wardrobe designer”.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)