|The Lady Eve
Click photo for high-definition enlargement.
This color-tinted image was taken from an 11 x 14"
lobby card for the 1949 re-release of The Lady Eve. Here's the same still in black and white.
Written and directed by Preston Sturges.
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, Eugene
Pallette, William Demerest, Eric Blore, Melville Cooper, Robert Grieg.
About The Lady Eve:
Sturges wrote this script with Stanwyck in mind, so he must have known how much she'd
bring to the role. The dry text on the page only hints at the delicious comic juice
Stanwyck subtly wrings out of seemingly innocuous lines such as "That's pretty,"
or "Don't you?" And although her closing punchline -- "Why Hopsie,
you ought to be kept in a cage" -- reads funny, it doesn't begin to do justice to
Stanwyck's flirtatious reading of it. Sturges was brilliant at letting his actors
play out a scene in a two-shot or a master, rather than alter their comic timing with
jarring cuts. For the humor to come across, the actors (and their director) have to
set the pace. However there are a number of cuts in this scene -- including a hilarious
POV shot as Fonda gazes up at Stanwyck and his vision blurs with delerium. He's
obviously quite intoxicated -- not from beer, not from ale, and not (just) from the smell
of her perfume.
Jean/Eve sets up this encounter as a little ice-breaker. She teasingly maneuvers
shy Charles/Hopsie into an intimate situation, kneeling down to cradle her ankle and slip
on a shoe. Knowing he's been "up the Amazon" for a year, she can then pretty
much lay back and let nature take its course. By the end of the scene she's still
totally in control, but slyly turned the tables to make it look like he's the one
who has coming on strong!
And so, as in Double Indemnity and Ball of Fire, Stanwyck's character
is talking about one thing on the surface, but really trying to convey something else.
Taken as a whole, this scene is simply about putting on a new pair of shoes to
replace the one that broke, but of course it's really a set-up, an opportunity to lay the
groundwork for seducing Charles. And when he's talking about the difference between
beer and ale, he really winds up talking about his frustration with his family, and how he
wants to break away and live his own life.
The background on these pages was made by sampling Sugarpuss
O'Shea's sparkling show dress from Ball of Fire.
|An excerpt from The Lady Eve
by Preston Sturges
Stanwyck plays Jean,
masquerading aboard a cruise ship as Lady Eve Harrington. Her mark: Charles Pike
(Henry Fonda), heir to the Pike's Pale Ale fortune. In this classic scene she takes
him to her cabin after breaking the heel off her shoe -- and blaming the accident on him.
JEAN'S CABIN - FULL SHOT
It is SOMETHING... modern, handsome and romantic. It has its
private deck. Jean limps in, followed by Charles who closes the door after him.
What's the matter?
What's the matter with it?
It's just that... I've been up the Amazon for a year... they don't use perfume.
(She points to a closet)
The shoes are in there... because you were so polite you can pick them out... and then put
them on... if you like.
Charles looks at her strangely, then opens the closet door,
revealing a compartmented shoe bag with fifty pairs of shoes.
He touches several pairs of shoes shyly, then lifts out a pair.
Jean laughs behind his back, then sits down.
Those the ones you want?
Doesn't seem possible for anybody to wear anything... that size.
Charles gets on one knee clumsily. Jean extends the foot with
the broken heel.
(Huskily as he takes hold of her foot)
I hope I... didn't hurt you.
Of course you didn't.
(Looking at him)
Don't you feel well?
I'm all right.
He takes off her broken slipper and slips on the new one.
What were you doing up the Amazon?
Looking for snakes... I'm an Ophiologist.
I thought you said you were in the beer business.
He takes off the other slipper and puts the new one on.
What's the difference?
Between beer and ale?
My father would burst a blood vessel. There's a big difference... ale is sort of
fermented on the top or something and beer is fermented on the bottom... or maybe it's
vice versa... There's no similarity at all. The uh... you see, the trouble with
being descended from a brewer, no matter how long ago he brooded, or whatever you call it,
is that you're supposed to know something all about something you don't give a hoot about.
It's funny to be kneeling here at your feet and talking about beer, isn't it?
You see, I don't like beer, bock beer, lager, beer, or steam beer.
(With some fire)
I do not! And I don't like pale ale, brown ale, nut brown ale, porter or stout which makes
me ulp just to think about it. Ulp! But that hasn't stopped everybody from calling me
Hopsie ever since I was six years old. Hopsie Pike!
Make it Charlie, will you?
All right, but there's somethink kinda cute about Hopsie and once you got older I could
call you Popsie... Hopsie Popsie!
That's all I need.
(He looks down at her feet)
Now here's a business I wouldn't mind being in... I never realized before how lovely it
She reaches out and touches his hair. Charles seizes her
hand, then slowly lets go.
We'd better get back now.
I guess so. You see, where I've been, I mean, up the Amazon, you kind of forget
how... how... I mean when you haven't seen a girl in a long time... I meant there's
something about that perfume that... that...
Don't you like my perfume?
Like it! I'm cockeyed for it!
(Getting to her feet)
Why Hopsie... you ought to be kept in a cage.
© 1941 by Universal Pictures. Used without permission for