Monday, April 4, 2011

The Lady Eve (1941)

I think Barbara Stanwyck is fantastic. She really makes this movie. Stanwyck plays Jean, a con artist who works with her father to woo men into losing lots of money to them at cards. On a cruise back to New York from South America, Jean and her father set their sights on the handsome yet bumbling herpetologist Charles (Henry Ford). I knew I was going to enjoy the movie, no matter how silly the plot, from the moment Jean started her narration of what all the other women she watched trying to pick up Charles must be saying. Jean, though, does not need a pick-up line. She very suavely trips Charles as he walks past her table, convinces him to walk her back to her cabin so she can change into new and undamaged shoes, and seduces him by suggesting he put the new shoes on her. From the moment Charles starts handling her feet, his eyes go all swimmy, and he is ready to follow her anywhere.
He follows her back to the dinner table, where Jean's father starts to set him up to lose a lot of money. And the courtship begins, with Charles bumbling over his words, and Jean delivering great lines like:
"I know what you meant, I was just flirting with you." and
"You're not going to faint, are you?"

The plot takes a quick turn when Jean announces that she is actually in love with Charles. She convinces her father not to take any of Charles's money, and she accepts Charles's marriage proposal. Unfortunately for Jean, though, the very morning after Charles proposes, someone tips Charles off to the scam. Charles won't believe that Jean is reformed or that she really does love him, and they part ways.

The rest of the movie involves a very complexly nutty scheme to get back at Charles. For as Jean says, "I need him like the axe needs the turkey." Jean goes to some pretty crazy lengths to get her revenge. I spent a lot of time wondering why she was bothering... and then everything made sense at the end of the movie. It will be a lot more fun if you don't try to predict what is going to happen!

Only two stars due to many tedious moments and the stupidity of the male lead (Barbara Stanwyck's great line delivery just isn't enough to make me believe that her character Jean actually cares anything for Charles), but I would see this again. It also really makes me want to investigate more Barbara Stanwyck movies.

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