Lady Eve, The (1941)

The Lady Eve (1941), written and directed by Preston Sturges.

A father-daughter team of grifters is on board a luxury ocean liner when it picks up a rich brewery heir who has been pursuing his ophiological studies in the Amazon. The most eligible bachelor on board, he is shy and awkward and would rather avoid entanglements, but Henry Fonda is no match for Barbara Stanwyck, who takes him down effortlessly three different times.

A complication: she falls in love half way through and has to defend him from her less fastidious father. Then it's break up to make up until the last scene.

"Isn't It Romantic?" plays in the background.

Witty dialogue and it is more earnestly romantic than your average screwball comedy.

Sturges was always at war with the censors, but had a way of getting things past them. I think he must have gotten them drunk, else how to explain the orgasm scene? No, really:


[Reclining, she hugs him and messes with his hair. He becomes increasingly flustered throughout...]

She: When I marry, it's going to be somebody I've never seen before. I mean I won't know what he looks like or where he'll come from or what he'll be. I want him to sort of... take me by surprise.

He: Like a burglar.

She: That's right. And the night will be heavy with perfume, and I'll hear a step behind me, and somebody breathing heavily. And then...

[She gasps, sighs, lies back and stretches...]

She: You better go to bed, Hopsie. I think I can sleep peacefully now.

He: I wish I could say the same.

Edith Head costumes.

Available on DVD. Other Sturges -- Sullivan's Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942) -- are available as Criterion Blu-rays, so maybe we'll get this one, too. [Later: on Blu-ray from Criterion].