by Sachin Gandhi
The phrase “Love is Blind” is thrown around so much that it has become a cliche. However, in the case of Preston Sturges’ perfect comedy The Lady Eve the phrase actually sticks. In fact, the film is a literal depiction of the phrase because love causes the protagonist Charles (Henry Fonda) to blindly ignore all obvious evidence in favor of his heart; not once but twice.
One can understand Charles tripping over love’s heel in the first instance because encountering the delightful Jean (Barbara Stanwyck) after spending a year in the Amazon is not really a fair match-up, especially since Jean has planned to seduce him. Jean wouldn’t have noticed Charles but he inadvertently makes himself a target not only for her but all the other woman on a traveling ship. When Charles is able to halt a traveling ship to get on board from his private boat, he alerts everyone that he is someone important. Jean, along with her father ‘Colonel’ Harrington (Charles Coburn) and Gerald (Melville Cooper), learn that Charles is wealthy due to his family brewery business, Pike’s Ale (The Ale that Won for Yale). The trio are professional card sharks and make a living out of conning people. So, a wealthy person like Charles becomes an instant opportunity. Charles’ wealth also makes him attractive to every other woman on the ship, who try to get his attention, but he is not impressed by any of them. However, Jean trumps them by getting Charles all to herself. Of course, it does not take much effort for Jean to win over Charles. He is intoxicated by her perfume and with a few maneuvers, including getting him to kneel down to put a pair of shoes on her, she gets Charles light headed and blurry-eyed. Charles’ bodyguard Muggsy (William Demarest) suspects a trap is being laid out by Jean and the Colonel but Charles ignores Muggsy’s warning, especially since he wins $600 off the Colonel and Jean. In an expected turn of events, Jean also starts to fall for Charles and plans to settle down with him to leave her criminal past behind. She even tries to minimize Charles’ loss in the next round of cards against her father’s plans. When she leaves the card table, Charles asks the Colonel for permission to marry his daughter. The Colonel has no problems with their relationship and uses the marriage topic to con $32,000 out of Charles. For his part, Charles is not bothered at such a loss because of his family wealth which increases with each passing second: “everytime the clock ticks, 14 people swig a bottle of pike”. After acquiring the Colonel’s permission, Charles proposes to Jean on a moonlit deck and she genuinely accepts his offer. Colonel Harrington finally believes his daughter’s seriousness and asks her to wait to reveal the truth until they get off the ship in order to preserve his and Gerald’s dignity. In the meantime, Muggsy’s investigations uncover a photo where Jean, Colonel and Gerald are documented as professional card players. Charles feels betrayed and does not give Jean a chance to explain matters. She is heart broken and wants revenge as they disembark the ship and go their separate ways. (more…)
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