Ep 7: The Lady Eve

Con woman Jean meets ale heir Charles and sparks, uh, fly. Get the podcast: Listen here at PopD | Go to iTunes

Story Analysis & Ratings:

Lucy says: 2 Pops ~ Even the best structure in the world can’t save a bad melon, and kids, this is a bad melon. Lucy’s rating breakdown: Structure: 5, Comedy: 2, Romance: 1

Jenny says: 3 Pops ~ Beautifully structured but schizophrenic comedy/farce with a truly terrible romance at its center because of Charles, the human potato. Graphic example of how not to write a romance. Rating Breakdown:  Structure: 5, Comedy: 3.5, Romance: 1

Blog Poll Rating: TBD

Movie Info:

Story: Ale heir Charles gets ensnared by conwoman Jean who accidentally falls in love with him. Bad choice. Trouble ensues. Release Date: Feb. 25, 1941 Director: Preston Sturges Writer:  Preston Sturges. More info at IMDb.

24 responses to “Ep 7: The Lady Eve”

  1. I liked the horse. Looked like Dobbin thought /he/ was the one who should be getting the proposal. And I thought Henry Fonda did his best with the material he had, though it did seem like the director didn’t know how to end a scene without a pratfall.

    Really, the only reason I didn’t want to take the hero out and have him shot was that while he was an ass, he was a completely clueless ass. Kind of the Captain Hammer syndrome: no matter how cheesy, he was too naive to completely hate. Can’t imagine that Barbara Stanwyck would want him around once the hormones stop singing.

    I’m trying to think if there were a lot of screwball comedies after this one. (To Be Or Not To Be? But it isn’t really romantic. ) The outbreak of the war changed things too much. I mean, they mention that ‘the boats aren’t running’ but not that it’s because there are submarines out there with torpedoes. One brief imitation of Hitler is the only reference. I think that killed romantic screwball comedies.

  2. The iTunes version of the podcast cuts out early. It’s only about 52 minutes long, and it cuts out with Jenny mid-laugh during the sex conversation. 🙁

  3. Watching these movies and reading/listening to your perspectives on them has been really enlightening. And now I have a mental list of other movies I would love to hear your feedback on…just look what you’ve started. 😉

  4. Verona – it downloaded fine and complete for me in iTunes. If you delete the file, then unsubscribe and re-subscribe to the podcast, it will download it again. Email me at lucy at lucymarch dot com if it still doesn’t work.

  5. Me versus Jenny-on-the-podcast
    JennyTheGreat: Nobody would throw away [paraphrased] a $32,000 check!
    MerryTheHumble: But… when the purser learned that the con-men had tossed aside the money, he assumed it was because they had their eyes on a much more remunerative goal. And I would have assumed the same thing, were I not aware that the characters were caught up in a screwball romantic comedy. (How I wished “real life” were as obvious.)

  6. Yes, but how much bigger a payday were they looking at?
    First they lost $600 as a lure. According to the inflation calculator that was about $9,254.96.
    Then he came back and they made their score:

    $32,000.00 in 1940 had the same buying power as $493,597.71 in 2010.

    That’s a pretty big pay day. I doubt they were going to get flashy with that.

  7. I thought it seemed obvious that the bigger payday would be marriage. He thinks the relationship was a ploy for a marriage with perpetual sponging off his family, or a divorce with settlement and alimony. In fact, I think Demerest’s character almost says that. So really, why would he stay and listen to her. To hear her say “No, really, I DO love you?” Then he’s just a fool and has fallen into the trap.

    I really have to say I didn’t blame him for walking out at the bar and I would have probably turned off the movie if he had stayed to listen to her. I can’t imagine the scene working at all if he stayed. He really would have been To Stupid to Live in my book even earlier in the story. And obviously, there were so many more moments where he IS TSTL I don’t think the movie could have squeezed in another.

    I seem to be in minority among the other viewers I discussed this with last night, but I really didn’t have as much of a problem with him running on the train. I read the scene that it was her point to keep going until he bolted. He did forgive her (sort of) after the first one, so she trotted out then next guy. I think she kept going until he couldn’t handle it, and I think that was her point.

    I completely agree that the “romance” was sacrificed for the commedy. I read on Wikipedia that there was a divergence of opinions on the script but there wasn’t any more information on that, but it did make me wonder if the commedy trumping the character and romace was a point of contention or if it was something else.

    Wikipedia also said that the censors originally nixed the first story for implied sex between the characters, so the version we saw was the “toned down” story. I found that interesting. 🙂

  8. I didn’t object to him leaving the stateroom. I objected to him jumping the train in the middle of the night and running like a coward. A gentleman would have slept somewhere else but made sure she got off the train and had a way back home. For all he knew, she didn’t have enough money with her for a ticket back.

    I don’t think he assumed marriage was in the cards in the first act. They were cardsharps, she lured men to card games, she didn’t marry for money. In fact, when she decided to marry him as part of the con the second time, all three men on her team told her it was going too far.

  9. Also, (back to the check) Charles has told the father that he is going to propose to Jean before he “rips” up the check. So Charles knows that when he believes he’s been played. And, obviously, the father hasn’t ripped up the check.

    Structure: 5
    Commedy: 4
    Romance: 2

    This was the first time I’d seen it, and I did find it pretty funny. This brings me to 3 2/3 pops. But it’s not “quite close to perfect” If I could vote for 3.5 I would, but I’m going to give it a 3 since this is voting for RomComs. As a straight commedy, I’d switch it up a 4.

  10. Right. But Charles had been planning to propose, so I think it’s reasonable for him to wonder if marriage wasn’t just part of the plan. We know the characters were just planning a card con. But Charles doesn’t, and I think it works as his motivation. He does see women drinking ale in the beginning and knows that his money is a lure.

    I can understand why you had a problem with him leaving on the train — it’s the same one that Stephanie and Tara had too. It could be that I’m also seeing it today, rather than in the time, I just didn’t read it that way as I watched it. (I was the only one who hadn’t seen it before last night — so my viewing is obviously different than theirs and yours). I’m just saying to me, I thought it was played for a laugh and it didn’t bother me. I pictured her laughing all the way down the rest of the trip.

  11. I think it’s really in how you define a hero, and that’s always subjective. Anybody (male or female) who’d say, “I’m taking you on a trip, you can depend on me,” and then bail, leaving the guest alone without knowing she was safe, would be a jerk to me. If it’s somebody who’s also said, “I love you,” the jerk-ness morphs into irredeemable jackass. You don’t put somebody in danger just because she’s told you something you don’t like, especially if you’ve promised to love her.

    But it’s subjective, and as you said, it’s supposed to be a comedy, you’re not supposed to look at it this closely. But as a romantic comedy, this movie fails because Charlies is such a failed hero: he only loves on his terms which isn’t love at all.

  12. I like Barbara Stanwyck in this movie so much I apparently don’t care if the rest of it is stupid. Though really, the end makes no sense. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a girl who snarks on the entire room.

  13. I just finished watching the movie (I’m always late!) and I haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet. But I have to ask- how do we know that he has just abandoned her on the train without knowing if she has cash or if she will be safe? If I’m remembering the scene correctly, we only see her pushing him beyond his limit, and then we see him shortly afterward, packed and wearing a coat over his nightclothes, falling as he gets off the train. Couldn’t he have given her money to get safely to where she was going, directions, and asked one of the many people always at his disposal to look after her, all in the part where the viewer isn’t watching?

    I hate to defend the idiot, but he may not be guilty of that particular negligence.

  14. Still working on the download, but I have to say, with the addition on ONE MORE LINE, this could have been an almost perfect movie for me. At the end, when he apologizes for leaving her, and she says, “You mean on the ship?” — if right there he had said, “No, on the train,” it would have been wonderful.

    It would have shown that he’d been thinking, he’d figured out she fooled him, and he just didn’t care — he still loved her. (-: And having lived and learned, he might have a chance to figure things out in the future a little faster.

    RE: the war: The US hadn’t entered the war yet, but they mentioned the ships didn’t run, and Jean’s cover story was that she came over in a submarine (-:. Yeah, it’s outrageous, but less outrageous if you know the background of the north Atlantic at that time. I still giggle over that a little bit. Talk about “sub”liminal.

  15. (-: I loved the chattiness. V. entertaining and informative.

    Now, while I was listening to the podcast, I kept flashing onto Lady Gaga’s song, “Bad Romance.” OK, I think what we really would like to see in a romantic comedy is a special kind of romance, a HEA, forever and ever sort of romance. However, there is no denying that a BAD romance also has a certain attractiveness. It can be hot, it can be fraught, and even if they wind up doing a replay of The War of the Roses, it can be entertaining.

    Next, the hero is a Ken Doll. He’s handsome. He’s got a certain kind of honesty and uprightness (which leads him into his flaws — the flip side is that he’s expecting people to measure up to his ideals). I think his dumping her comes out of this personality trait.

    Maybe in those days, the hero’s role didn’t matter so much, as long as he wasn’t pond scum (although, he’s often quite close, isn’t he?). People cared about the heroine: women wanted to be her, men wanted to *ahem*. Also, as a Ken Doll, it’s OK to dump food on him, trip him up and generally humiliate him.

    The train scene was OK for me. That’s the exact result Jean was trying to get — to make him mad and crazy and upset. Maybe she was actually hoping to put him beneath the wheels, too. In so many stories, it’s the HEROINE (usually TSTL) who runs out crying into the night. Kind of clever to upend the trope.

    However, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, they say. And the movie’s end really let me down. If only he had figured things out . . . .They would have had to cut the last line (which is a goody), but his character would have grown.

    Did anyone grow in this movie? I’m not sure they did. Maybe growth wasn’t a big function in the depression (LOL, economic humor, har!)

    Loved this movie. Agree that the HEA romance was NOT a big part of it.

    Oh, and this didn’t really fit anywhere in my comments, but . . . notice he didn’t fall for the beautiful women he *thought* were gold-digging him. Maybe he’s a closet masochist? Needed the pain of tripping to cause him to fall in love?

    Also, would love to see an extra podcast (-:. Lovely heroines in all of these (except Susan, who was in a farce); amazing how the era also defined the stories.

  16. Jennifer, he jumped the train. He didn’t wait until it got to the station, he escaped from her by jumping the train. If he was going to be an adult about it, he’d have moved to another car and got off when they reached the next station. Instead he ran like a rabbit because she had a sexual past. Bleah.

  17. I’m so glad. We really don’t have a feel for how this is working yet except that we’re enjoying it, so full speed ahead.

  18. Yeah, Okay, he jumped the train. He’s an imbecile, that point is hammered home over and over. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a male lead quite this much before.

    Must listen to the podcast- tomorrow, dealing with a sick child today.

  19. Sorry. I’m not paying attention to the flow here, I’m just answering comments as the come up. Beating a dead horse. Not the one in the movie, he’s fine.

  20. I enjoyed the movie, but more for the fun in it than for the hero.

    When you two were mentioning that he wouldn’t listen to her, are you talking about at the bar on the boat or when negotiating the divorce or both? I have to say, he was an idiot and a coward. I was especially annoyed that he wouldn’t talk to her.

    Do you think Jean was a virgin? Just curious.

    Also, there is a “One book, One Twitter” thing. #1b1t American Gods by Neil Gaiman was selected by the masses and the twitter account for it: http://twitter.com/1b1t2010

  21. I don’t think Jean was a virgin. At the beginning, when Ken Doll asks if there’s dancing on the boat, she very forthrightly says, “Oh, let’s go to bed.” Was that supposed to be a double-entendre, and that’s why it got past the censors? Also, the way she was eating that rose . . . it sure didn’t look like Virgin Susie seducing the Mark.

    I am betting that when she was listing lovers on the train, some of those guys were really real. (-: I hope not the twins, but . . . well, whatever floated her boat.

    However, for the sake of the film censors, I don’t think they could actually say whether she was a virgin or not. So, all we get are hints. I’m pretty sure she was an experienced woman,

  22. I think the “let’s go to bed” was supposed to discombobulate Charles because she didn’t follow through on it. But like you, I have doubts about her virginity. And good for her, too.