THE LADY EVE (Preston Sturges, 1941)

The sexiest romantic comedy ever, and also the funniest, The Lady Eve, brilliantly written and directed by Preston Sturges from a story by Monckton Hoffe, revolves around boy and girl. Charles (“Hopsy”) prefers snakes to women and is heir to the Pike’s Ale fortune, while self-assured con-artist Jean is out to fleece him. But the two fall in love, he finds out about her and turns on her (so far, so Mr. Deeds), and she impersonates the veddy British Lady Eve Sedgwick, one-upping him in society’s ranks, getting him to fall for this lookalike and, this time, getting him to marry her. On their honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls, amidst stormy weather, Eve recounts numerous past marriages and affairs, scandalizing Hopsy, who slides into mud while hastening off the train. Her “sweet” revenge, though, depresses Jean, who earlier told Hopsy: “Good women aren’t as good as you think they are, and the bad ones aren’t as bad. Not nearly as bad.”
     Jean maneuvers another meeting—onboard a ship, like the first time, and—lesson learned—Charles throws his arms around Jean, who mutters, “Why did we have to go through all this nonsense?” Well, Jean also had a lesson to learn: that men aren’t either chumps or snakes, or both. When these two come together as unprejudiced equals, it is tremendously moving. Charles confesses he is married; Jean responds, “But so am I.”
     Priceless: Jean, seated, “stalking” Charles in the ship’s dining hall by looking into a compact mirror; Charles’s intensifying sexual swoon as Jean plays, plays with his hair (“Why, Hopsy, you ought to be kept in a cage”); Charles’s multiple falls at the dinner in Eve’s honor; Charles’s marriage proposal as his horse—or is it hers?—keeps interrupting by nuzzling him.

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