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The Lady Eve

By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted

Whatever our reactions to world events of the last month, we could all use some distraction, and Preston Sturges' 1941 comedy The Lady Eve fits the bill nicely. A father-daughter team of con artists board a cruise ship in hopes of scoring big, and do so when they spot somewhat slow-witted rich guy Charles Pike (Henry Fonda). But as she works her charm to ensnare the dupe, daughter Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) finds herself equally netted by Pike's goofy good nature--confounding father "Colonel" Harrington (Charles Coburn). A delightful screwball comedy ensues. Even if The Lady Eve doesn't conjure up the frantic hilarity of Sturges' The Palm Beach Story nor as many unforgettable supporting characters (a Sturges specialty) as his The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, it remains one of the more memorable battles of the sexes from a golden era specializing in just that. And at this moment, Eve's list of virtues expands to include many other things it doesn't have--explosions, scare tactics, civilian casualties--shocking and awing us only with sparkling dialogue and an overflow of charm. First-rate escapism from another time.

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