The Lady Eve (Filmmakers Collection) (1941)
Featurette-Preston Sturges : Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer
|Year Of Production||1941|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Preston Sturges|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
†† The Lady Eve is a classic screwball comedy from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Released in 1941, it was written and directed by the great Preston Sturges and, after The Great McGinty and Christmas in July, it became the third in his run of box office hits.
The Lady Eve is the second DVD to be released under the moniker of " The Preston Sturges' Filmmakers Collection". So far this set includes Sullivan's Travels and The Palm Beach Story. We can only hope that Umbrella Entertainment releases some of the other Sturges classics onto DVD. Whilst no masterpiece, The Lady Eve is a fun romp in typical screwball fashion and a showcase for the talents of Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda.
Fonda plays Charles Pike, a bumbling scientist who has devoted himself to the study of snakes. He has been up the Amazon for the past year studying and capturing the slithery creatures. On the boat home to New York he meets another kind of snake. Stanwyck plays Jean Harrington, a card shark who, with her reprobate father, seduces and swindles wealthy men. Charles might have passed under her radar except for one thing - he is the heir to a brewery fortune!
Using her feminine wiles, Jean seduces the hapless Charles and sets him up for a clean out. Just when the game is set, however, Jean finds herself falling for Charles and decides to go straight. All would have ended happily but for the fact that Charles has a minder, the hardnosed Muggsy (William Demerast) who digs into Jean's past and produces the evidence to prove the point. A devastated Charles unceremoniously withdraws his proposal of marriage and drops her like a stone. The stung Jean swears revenge.
Some time later Jean meets a fellow swindler in America who is pretending to be an English Lord. He tells her that he is ingratiating himself with the Pike family and Jean works out a way to have her revenge. She pretends to be Lade Eve Sidwich throwing Charles into turmoil and confusion.
Like all great screwball comedies there is so much snappy dialogue, pacy action and pratfalls that there isn't a great deal of time left for character development. Charles is amiable enough but he remains a bit of a dunderhead. Jean will always be a little on the cunning side, though she and Charles share a genuine affection.
Preston Sturges wrote and directed the film, a feat that was uncommon in 1941 although Billy Wilder and Orson Welles were unfurling their own works at around the same time. His great skill as a writer was to put clever dialogue into the mouths of seemingly ordinary people without making it ever sound forced. His other skill was drawing energetic performances out of his actors.
Admittedly, Fonda just has to look silly and a bit gushing whilst completing a number of sight gags and pratfalls. So successful was he in this role (bearing in mind that he was notable for his dramas including 1940's The Grapes of Wrath) that the studio quickly put him into a series of romantic comedies.
For my part, however, the revelation is Stanwyck. Five years later she would be at the top of her dramatic game with Double Indemnity. Here, however, she is a comedic force of nature. As Jean she is a swindler who grows a heart of gold. As Lady Eve, she is a beautiful woman of very regal bearing. This remains one of her finest roles which led to a number of other similar parts (though none quite as successful).
As usual, Sturges worked with his ensemble of supporting players. One of the joys of watching a Sturges film is to see the way that he used his repertory of actors to create interesting and different roles. It is equally interesting to see how some actors who were given small parts in this film have larger roles in later Sturges movies.
The Lady Eve is a joy from beginning to end. It is undoubtedly a slight affair but it shows what a skilful director like Sturges can make out of his own work (which received a nomination for Best Screenplay at the Oscars) and showcases two stars bouncing off each other with skill and aplomb.
††† The Lady Eve comes to DVD in its original 1.33:1 Cinematic Aspect Ratio.
Generally the image is acceptable. However, it has not been the subject of a detailed digital restoration and as a consequence the quality pales in comparison with fully restored films from that era including Citizen Kane and Casablanca.
There is no noticeable damage to the print although there is a fairly liberal sprinkling of artefacts. Compression issues are non-existent.
The greatest problem with the transfer is the high level of grain which suggests that the film is better watched on a small screen. It is not disastrous but the film could certainly look a lot better.
Having said that there is no damage, there are a couple of points that are worth mentioning. There is a telecine wobble from time to time which is hardly noticeable after the opening credits.
However, at two points towards the end of the film (most obviously at 86.11) there is a noticeable "dimple" in the film lasting for a second or two each time. I am still not sure what caused that problem.
††† The Lady Eve receives a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono transfer running at 224Kb/s.
This is perfectly adequate to convey the dialogue which is at the heart of this film. The soundtrack is undamaged and the verbal exchanges can be followed with ease. Audio sync appears fine.
The music for the film is suitably light and fluffy. Isn't It Romantic plays in the background whilst Jean is doing her best to seduce Charles.
All in all the sound is quite good considering the age of the film.
|Surround Channel Use|
Hmm! This is an excellent documentary about the life and work of Preston Sturges. The trouble is, it was included as an extra on Sullivan's Travels. Here is what I said about the documentary on that release:
The Rise and Fall of Preston Sturges is a full length documentary on Sturges written by variety critic Todd McCarthy. It is a comprehensive overview of the work of this fascinating director. The documentary delves into his upbringing and the extent to which it either shaped his career, by adhering to the principles of his hedonistic mother, or defined his art by reacting against the high brow culture she represented. Sturges' mother was in fact a life long friend of Isadora Duncan, dancer and human headline extraordinaire. For the trivia buffs amongst us the film points out that it was Sturges' mother who gave Duncan the extra long scarf which was to catch in the wheels of her automobile and break her neck on a country drive!
Starting from Sturges' principle that a good script is the best insurance policy a producer can buy the documentary follows Sturges' career through the extraordinary period of 1940 to 1944 when he made eight box office smashes. Sturges was a devotee of the self help book "Live two Lifetimes in One" which accounts for his extraordinary work rate as he strove to write and direct so many films in such a short period.
The film not only chronicles his astounding purple patch but also the rot that set in for many years afterwards as Sturges fought with the studios. Making a deal with the devil he became one of the first producer, director, script writers when he signed up with Howard Hughes in a relationship that bore only sour fruit. Throughout this he apparently remained a optimist.
The documentary dates from 1989 and is in 1.33:1. Some of the source material is in poor condition and the documentary itself displays all the flaws associated with an 18 year old film but, despite this, it is engaging viewing. The film also features interviews with some of the stars he worked with, including an impossibly tanned Betty Hutton, and has Sturges relate a funny story about accepting his only Oscar. When he took the statuette he joked to the audience that Preston Sturges was unable to make it and he had come in his stead. However few in the audience knew what Preston looked like and most believed that the acceptee was a ring-in. Sturges rued the fact that he never got this chance again.
Much as I can applaud the quality of the documentary, I am still a little bit confused why Umbrella should think that purchasers of the Preston Sturges Filmmakers Collection wouldn't want some different extras.
Further, unlike Sullivan's Travels, The Lady Eve doesn't score a commentary. A pity.
The theatrical trailer is suitably fun giving a pretty good guide to the film.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
†††The Lady Eve is available in various editions outside Region 4. However, if you love this film you will buy the Criterion Collection Edition from Region 1 which has a apparently a nicely restored print and a wealth of extras as follows:
††† The Lady Eve is a fun and fresh screwball comedy featuring great performances from Fonda and Stanwyck.
The transfer is reasonably good for a 1941 vintage film but pales against anything from that era which has had the benefit of a digital restoration.
The extras are great unless you have already purchased Sullivan's Travels.
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70 Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|