No writer-director has ever equaled Sturges’s amazing burst of creative energy—the nine witty, mostly rowdy films he auteured in a four-year fury. Surely no moviemaker provided more intelligent, choleric pleasure. So including a Sturges film here was a given. But which one? We might have chosen his Hollywood satire Sullivan’s Travels, or that pearly menage-a-quatre The Palm Beach Story, or one of his teeming, small-town, wartime parables (The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Hail the Conquering Hero). But we’re sticking with The Lady Eve, which comes damned close to perfection of writing, performing and sustained tone. Relocating the Garden of Eden to a cruise ship on the North Atlantic, Sturges tosses a gullible Adam (Henry Fonda as a balletically awkward rich boy) into the expert hands of a conniving Eve (Barbara Stanwyck as a card shark). Her toying seduction of him is as smoldering as it is funny. His revenge is that this superior woman finally falls for the pathetic lug in her cross hairs. Splendid fun!
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