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Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Lady Eve

With one of the opening lines of "let us be crooked, but never common," The Lady Eve sets itself up as a witty comedy about con-artists that travel first class and seem better society than the society they rob. Barbara Stanwyck plays Jean Harrington, a seductress and card sharp who cons with her father--they're all impossibly clever, stylish, and worldly. In contrast their mark, Charles Pike (played by Henry Fonda) is naive, self-conscious, even at points ridiculous in his awkwardness, but with his blushing and fumbling he is the heart of the film. Unlike the other characters who often seem to live in a world of make-believe of fake aristocracy, private cabins, and elaborate games, Pike is grounded. He is almost child-like as he shows a simple card trick and the whole "game" the set is leading seems to be as easy as taking candy from a baby. But it his naivety that ends up destroying the play as hardened Jean Harrington finds herself falling for her mark. It's a beautiful performance by Stanwyck full of nuances you wouldn't expect in something often written off as a screwball comedy. It's a beautiful film full of heart despite the classic set-up that will have you both laughing and wishing for a happy outcome.
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