The Lady Eve
Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette,
“The [Barbara] Stanwyck temperament and style are at the heart of that tension between experience and innocence which so much preoccupies [Preston] Sturges,” James Harvey wrote. This tale of innocence seduced by experience, and vice versa, is a comic pinnacle for both director and actress. From the moment card sharp Jean Harrington (Stanwyck) clunks him on the head with an apple, virginal ale heir and ophiologist Charles Poncefort Pike (Henry Fonda) is headed for a fall. “You’re a funny girl for anybody to meet who’s just been up the Amazon for a year,” he tells her. The funny thing is that, setting out to play him, she falls for him, too. When Charles gets wise to her identity, the outraged Jean invents a new one and, as the Lady Eve Sidwich, determines to finish the game. In Stanwyck’s universe, love may be a con, but it’s a privilege to get taken by her, time after exhilarating time.