By Noah Lopez and Doug Cummings
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Preston Sturges is unequivocally the master of the late 30's/early 40's screwball romantic comedy. His imaginative shot setups, his offbeat story lines, and his clever sense of humor all gel to lend Sturges' filmography a lasting and influential air. While his cynical view of Hollywood, "Sullivan's Travels," is perhaps his most respected and best film, it's hard to pass up the fantastic Barbra Stanwyck/Henry Fonda comedy powerhouse of "The Lady Eve." Stanwyck stars in the title role as half of a father/daughter con man team who set out to juke rich bachelors out of their spoils. In the process of winning thousands of dollars from tycoon Fonda in tricky card play, Stanwyck falls in love with him and sets a series of comical mishaps into effect.
After gaining Fonda's affections (and marriage proposal) through her wily ways, Stanwyck is left stranded between the role she played to gain those affections, and who her true character is. When Fonda finds out her inital intentions, he quickly drops her and heads home to his beer-tycoon father's estate. It's in the series of events that follow that Sturges lets his comic flair shine. Stanwyck arrives at Fonda's estate, again in an assumed personality, to attempt both to win Fonda's love back, and punish him for his judgemental ways.
"The Lady Eve"(1940) is one of the great screwball comedies, along with Howard Hawkes' "His Girl Friday" (1941) and Leo McCarey's "The Awful Truth" (1937). Compared to the easy and obvious comedies of the 80s and 90s, it's a great find to watch these substantially more inventive offerings, and see how great Hollywood comedy can sometimes be. źN.L.
In the realm of biting dialogue and acerbic cinematic wit, few filmmakers rise as high as Preston Sturges. After working as a studio writer for several years, he moved to directing his own scripts and quickly became known for quick, sardonic banter and gloriously farcical situations. His films, from "The Great McGinty" to "Hail the Conquering Hero," established him as Hollywood's most aspiring comedy director of the '40s, and his influence is continually felt even in contemporary filmmakers from Joel and Ethan Coen ("Raising Arizona").
In 1948, Sturges wrote and directed the screwball comedy "Unfaithfully Yours," a black comedy about a respected music conductor, Alfred De Carter (Rex Harrison), who becomes convinced that his wife, Daphne (Linda Darrell) is having an affair. The plot unfolds as Alfred grows more obsessed with his convictions and tries to balance his refined affability with a heart of constricting jealousy. The film enters his mind (and so does the camera in a bravura shot) as Alfred conducts a symphony and considers three ways to murder his wife.
In describing the plot, the film sounds more like a Hitchcockian thriller than a light-hearted foray into screwball comedy, but therein lies the secret to Sturges' spark. The frantic actions and emotional hysteria build to a dizzying level of slapstick and each line of dialogue is laced with artfully-phrased innuendo and hilarious pessimism.
"Unfaithfully Yours" was remade in 1984 and starred Dudley Moore. Surprisingly enough, Moore's remake was funny in itself, but it lacked the comedic tension found in Sturges comedy of manners that hovered between a man's respectability and disgrace. As comedies go, Sturges' "Unfaithfully Yours" stands as a tour-de-force of shining verbal antics and hysterical cinematic mania. źD.C.
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