The Lady Eve (1941)

lady eve poster 1941 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good cast, different story

Last third seems rushed

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Lady Eve

Studio:  Paramount Pictures

Genre(s):  Romantic/Comedy

Release Date(s):  February 26, 1941 (Premiere)/March 21, 1941 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

lady eve barbara stanwyck charles coburn

All fall to my power!

Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) is a herpetologist and heir to the Pike Ale empire returning from a stint on the Amazon with a rare snake.  When he is targeted by grifters Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) and her father “Colonel” Harrington (Charles Coburn), he finds himself falling in love with Jean who is actually falling in love with him.  When his suspicious valet Muggsy (William Demarest) suspects that Jean and her father aren’t on the up and up, he is out to expose them, but both Jean and Charles might have already been bitten by love…and even the truth could challenge this!

Written and directed by Preston Sturges, The Lady Eve is a screwball romantic comedy.  The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1994.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #103).

lady eve barbara stanwyck henry fonda


While Sullivan’s Travels is Preston Sturges’ most well-known film, The Lady Eve shows his skill at helping build the modern romantic comedy.  With a great cast and a clever script, The Lady Eve is a fun movie.

The film (by today’s standard) is rather typical for the first half.  It is a meet-cute where the characters end up falling in love despite their differences only to half their love be dashed when the truth comes out.  What changes is the second half of the film which features “Eve” winning Charles again under another disguise.  It is an odd last act that kind of dives deep into how love and time taints everything.  Love is kind of ambiguous.

Henry Fonda is rather plain as Charles Pike.  He starts out as somewhat smart but continues to slide as he’s “blinded” by love.  Stanwyck is always good and she can both be charming and conniving.  William Demarest is underdeveloped as the valet that can see through Jean, and Charles Coburn feels like a stock typical character…though the fact he is supposed to be Jean’s real father creates a different vibe instead of them just being con men that are allied out of convenience…he gives bad advice but does want the best for her.

lady eve married barbara stanwyck henry fonda

Eve has the power

The movie is clean and crisp.  I like it better when it is contained and feels a bit more like a stage play on the boat (the pocket mirror scene is well done).  When the picture because a classic rom-com with the marriage and mansions, it is paced a bit too fast.  I wish the picture was more balanced between the first part and the last third.

The Lady Eve is a classic film with a classic feel.  The faults in it are somewhat engrained into the style of filmmaking when it was made.  While Sullivan’s Travels still is Sturges’ classic film, this is a fine addendum to his work.  The Lady Eve is short and sweet, and a romance that stands…in its own weird way.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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