On Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve

From The Forum With No Name:

Ted Fontenot: She's (Stanwyck) more appealing there...than any woman has a right to be. And Fonda fits with her just perfectly. She and Fonda rank with Hepburn and Grant, Stewart and Sullavan, and a few other notable comic couples.

David Ehrenstein: I love the bit where she's looking in a pocket mirror at what's going on behind her and doing a running commentary on all the women on the ship trying to throw themselves at Fonda.

Ted: Yeah, that's great. The whole thing's so organic, culminating perfectly with the tripping and blaming it on his clumsiness. The running away from the snake, then thinking it could have followed them to her cabin two decks below, the snuggling, her tousling his hair while he, his eyes averted, pulls down the hem of her skirt--the first 20-30 minutes of that movie are just about the best thing on movie earth.

David: "It's the same dame!"

And don't forget the sublime charm of the great Eugene Pallette.

Palette's great--the kids, who have no fondness for talky screwballs, loved him when he rolled down the stairs singing that drinking song.

And Stanwyck commenting on the mirror is mirrored by Stanwyck commenting on the horseriding scene...

Ted: That horse scene is also superb--it and the mirror scene are both narration schemes and both serve to satirize what in many movies would be the obvious and obligatory. Her comments are like counterpoint narration to what's happening. Hodges and Caine used something like that to good comic effect in Pulp. Actually, it was used too much in that movie and finally ended up losing its effect.

Not to mention the horse himself was a pretty good performer.

Ted: Stanwyck can't be praised too highly--although her English accent in The Lady Eve ain't much to speak of

True, but the timing of the thing and her delivery--she just slips into it like it was a silk stocking--was just about peerless; it's like she's gone over into predatory mode. You can't help but feel sorry for Fonda all over again.

Ted: The combination of aplomb and vulnerability goes to the heart of her boundless appeal. It's no big deal, you right. Her confidence leaves no doubt she'll prevail. It's like Fonda's comment re that she looks too much like her to be her--only a real Englishman wouldn't have to sound enough like one, so she must be one.

There's something to that, the same time you're struck by the boundless resourcefulness of the human mind--if he want's to believe it's a different dame, he'll invent a reason why it's a different dame.

Stanwyck whose eyesight's clearer (but ultimately gets clouded by love as well), has a better line of reasoning: they look different because they were in love at the time.

Ted: Fonda, who was never better looking or more winning, makes a thoroughly believable male sex object. He's an immensely appealing naif, but he's not stupid or dumb by any means. The guy had a fantastic resume right up until he pulled up stakes and left for Broadway: Young Mr. Lincoln, The Grapes of Wrath, The Lady Eve, The Male Animal, The Magnificent Dope, The Ox-Bow Incident, My Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, The Fugitive, then bye-bye for seven years. What a shame. He was Ford's choice for the the more complex, deeper roles; Wayne was used for the roles with the simpler psychology. It wasn't until Fonda left, and Wayne had shown he could do these more complex things with Red River, that Ford awarded Wayne both kinds. (Legend has it that Ford, upon exiting a viewing of Red River, is supposed to have commented, "Well, I'll be damned. The big son-of-a-bitch can act.") It was never the same between Fonda and Ford when Fonda returned to the movies.

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