The Lady Eve
So, here we have another romantic comedy and again a con theme. An ensemble of crooks spearheaded by Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) has found their easy prey in the rich and naïve Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) and now they got to milk the cow. Unfortunately Jean falls in love with the mug and that complicates matters.
This one has a lot of good stuff. Premier of that is an excellent cast. Stanwyck and Fonda are glorious. They are in general good but here they are excelling in roles so different from what I have seen them do before. Stanwyck as the elegant and charming seductress is far away from the demure missionary wife in “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” or the earthbound working class mother in “Stella Dallas”. In the Lady Eve she is classy, simply classy. She oozes style and sex and wit. And she does this so naturally that the other roles of hers seem the acted ones.
Henry Fonda too seems at first out of place. He is not the serious, fiery gentleman of “Jezebel” or the tight and intense Oklahoma farmer of “The Grapes of Wrath”, but a young and naïve but also deeply honest and decent man. A typical Jimmy Stewart role, really. In fact I wonder why Stewart is not doing this one, but I suppose he was under contract with another studio. No loss though, Fonda is doing a perfect job.
The supporting cast work fine as well. Charles Coburn as Jean Harrington swindler father is particularly excellent, but also Eric Blore as a con man giving it as British nobility is good.
The script is witty and full of puns and by all rights this should be a good romcom with a few delicious twists.
So why do I not love this film?
This internal logic of this film stinks.
I just do not get the plot. The dude gets framed once on the boat by the girl. Lesson learned. At the family estate he fall for the same tricks even though he gets very clear indications that this is exactly the same woman, now giving it as a British lady of old money and title. Once married she scare him away with stories of past relationships at which point he takes a cruise ship and finds the original Jean and they throw themselves in each other’s arms.
Am I missing something here? What makes him suddenly think that the answer to marrying one con woman is to take another con woman? What is her ploy? I understand that she needs to be rid of him after they get married, but I also understand that the idea is that she wants him to go and find the real Jean. How exactly is that supposed to work? There is a big gaping hole here and it feels as if I fell asleep somewhere near the end and missed some crucial part, but I swear I was wide awake, not even drifting.
This is the kind of things that really ruins it for me. The movie has to convince me that its story is plausible and adheres to its own logic. Deux ex machinas are definitely a no-no and pasted on happy endings definitely an eyesore, but bad logic… That just leaves me with that big empty feeling.
Of course it may be that I am just really stupid and missed the entirely obvious. That has happened before and if I should be really fair I ought to go back and see it again. It would not be so bad to do that really. Barbara Stanwyck makes it all worthwhile and Henry Fonda is good for a few hearty laughs.
And we do get to meet an old friend again. You remember “Isn’t it Romantic” from “Love me Tonight”?