by Madeline Iva
Well chickens, while everyone is off at Romantic Times Convention, 2016 in Las Vegas this week, I’m sitting home, twiddling my thumbs and editing my latest book…
I’m not upset that I’m not at RT. No, not at all.
Today I realized that while every other dame who writes romance out there is leaving whatever happens in Vegas in Vegas, that doesn’t mean I have to sit at home crying into my oatmeal.
So I’ve hauled out a real treat – the best (if most under-rated) romantic comedy in the history of Hollywood movies evah. I’m talking about THE LADY EVE.
Gather round, my pretties and learn why this light bit of fluff is as long on feminism as it is short on all that was bad, bad, bad way back then. (I’m talking those moments that ruin an old film: i.e. overt male patriarchy with “And that’s why I, as a man am superior to you, little lady” moments, cringingly racist moments, and overt classism “And that’s why we upper classes are morally superior to the rest of you”, etc.)
It’s not just great costumes, actors, and great lines that make THE LADY EVE a movie to go back to—there’s a wonderfully refreshing contrast of gender here as well. Our hero is bookish and likes to ‘play with snakes’ while our heroine is street smart, and makes her living by her wits. The movie is all about crushing the hero’s romantic ideals in the most adorable way possible.
Gene (the glorious Barbara Stanwyck) and her father are grifters on a South American cruise. She ropes men into playing cards with her father, a card shark, where, naturally the suckers lose scads of money.
Along comes the hero, Henry Fonda, who plays Charles Pike. He’s very pretty–prettier than Gene even. Charlie’s also been up the Amazon studying snakes for two years. When he heads back to the snake pit of civilization via the cruise ship, Gene sets her sights on him. But Charlie is such a good guy, that she winds up making the mistake of falling in love with him along the way.
It’s not just that Charlie is handsome and intellectually endowed, you see. He’s also the son of a beer baron who brews Pike’s Pale, “The Ale That Won For Yale”. He’s also a wee bit righteous. Although Gene is all set to come clean and tell him about her past, his body guard, Mugsy, suspicious that Charlie is become a target for con men, gets the dope on the gang. In the end Henry ends up finding out who Gene really is on his own before she can tell him.
Not only is he crushed, he’s a little cruel when he breaks up with her.
Hell hath no fury like Gene scorned. In the midst of her wounded pride and heartbreak, Gene decides to learn him a lesson he won’t forget.
She disguises herself as the Lady Eve, setting up camp in Connetticut with another grifter friend “Sir Alfred” in Henry’s neighborhood. Donning a British accent, the Lady Eve descends upon Charlie and his family. Charlie meets her again and falls in love with her. Again.
The movie has the odd wit, sparkling dialogue, and great character acting all around.
Yet it’s more than that. It has that thing–call it glamour–that the best classic films have. The sets! There are some pom pom mums in one of the penultimate scenes that make me want to swoon. The costumes (by Edith Head of course) are to die. It’s so clever the way movies of those time made the luxury a part of the background. In Notorious it’s the way they might run out of champagne. (Oh no!) In Rebecca it’s what she’s going to wear for the ball. In this movie it’s the abundant amount of food they can order for breakfast — while Mugsy just wants a dish of milk and two flies for Charlie’s snake. Or the fact that in the rush to have a big dinner celebrating Lady Eve, the servants forget Mr. Pike’s breakfast.
In The Lady Eve one thing that I really like is that the rich people are just as fun as the con artists, the servants are real people and they each have their own moments where you get the sense that the life they life is different, but not less.
Anytime Henry starts pontificating in a righteous patriarchal way, you know that he’s soon going to be bounced off his white horse straight into the mud.
While whenever Gene echoes these sentiments, her tongue is firmly placed in her cheek for the entire speech, and you realize how easily the rich are hoisted upon their own petard.
Charlie is science-smart, but Eve is wise–which, all in all, makes THE LADY EVE delightful.
So who cares if all the other romance writers get to gamble, drink, and romp around in sexy stilettos? I’m going to bask in a little faux luxury and pleasure myself with a good dose of the Lady Eve.
Meanwhile, if you like to pleasure yourself daily, make sure to follow us at Lady Smut.
Madeline Iva writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance. Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, and her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be out Fall, 2016.