The Lady Eve is a 1941 film written and directed by Preston Sturges and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. The film is a slapstick and screwball comedy and has made a number of “best of” lists includings AFI’s “100 Years…100 Laughs” at number 55. The film was nominated for one Academy Award for “Best Writing” and the New York Times named it the best film of the year in 1941. So does this screwball comedy rise above the pack in order to be considered a classic?
Should this film be considered a classic? This is a film that I can give a hearty yes to. I had never seen or even heard of this film before I watched it and I immediately found myself drawn into the story and antics on the screen. The acting and timing are all spot on and the clumsy and passive Hopsie (Fonda) and smooth and aggressive Jean (Stanwyck) make perfect foils for each other. The pacing is brisk and the secondary characters all add some wonderful comedic elements with my favorite being the bombastic Horace Pike (Eugene Pallette). What really makes this comedy (and all other truly great comedies) work is the fact that it is timeless. The jokes are timeless and even seventy years after the release of the film are still laugh out loud funny. That is a great accomplishment for any film and especially a screwball comedy.
Would I own this film? Sign me up! This is a truly enjoyable picture. If you want a wonderful film to enjoy on a date night with your spouse this would be one to pick. I can definitely see myself revisiting this one many times in the coming years. I would also rate this film as one of my most pleasant surprises since starting this list. There are a handful of movies on this list that I had never seen or heard of before that have really appealed to me and this is one of them.
Here’s a clip of one of my favorite scenes in the film: