Top Ten Favorite Movies Set in the 1870s

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Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1870s:

TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN THE 1870s

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1. “The Age of Innocence” (1993) – Martin Scorcese directed this exquisite adaptation of Edith Wharton’s award winning 1920 novel about a love triangle within New York’s high society during the Gilded Age. Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfieffer and Oscar nominee Winona Ryder starred.

 

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2. “The Big Country” (1958) – William Wyler directed this colorful adaptation of Donald Hamilton’s 1958 novel, “Ambush at Blanco Canyon”. The movie starred Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker and Charlton Heston.

 

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3. “True Grit” (2010) – Ethan and Joel Coen wrote and directed this excellent adaptation of Charles Portis’ 1968 novel about a fourteen year-old girl’s desire for retribution against her father’s killer. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hattie Steinfeld starred.

 

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4. “Far From the Madding Crowd” (2015) – Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge and Michael Sheen starred in this well done adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel about a young Victorian woman who attracts three different suitors. Thomas Vinterberg directed.

 

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5. “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956) – Mike Todd produced this Oscar winning adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel about a Victorian gentleman who makes a bet that he can travel around the world in 80 days. Directed by Michael Anderson and John Farrow, the movie starred David Niven, Cantiflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton.

 

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6. “Stardust” (2007) – Matthew Vaughn co-wrote and directed this adaptation of Neil Gaman’s 1996 fantasy novel. The movie starred Charlie Cox, Claire Danes and Michelle Pfieffer.

 

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7. “Fort Apache” (1948) – John Ford directed this loose adaptation of James Warner Bellah’s 1947 Western short story called “Massacre”. The movie starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda, John Agar and Shirley Temple.

 

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8. “Zulu Dawn” (1979) – Burt Lancaster, Simon Ward and Peter O’Toole starred in this depiction of the historical Battle of Isandlwana between British and Zulu forces in 1879 South Africa. Douglas Hickox directed.

 

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9. “Young Guns” (1988) – Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips starred in this cinematic account of Billy the Kid’s experiences during the Lincoln County War. The movie was directed by Christopher Cain.

 

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10. “Cowboys & Aliens” (2011) – Jon Favreau directed this adaptation of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s 2006 graphic novel about an alien invasion in 1870s New Mexico Territory. The movie starred Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde.dom

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Top Ten Favorite Movies Set in the 1850s

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Below is my current list of favorite movies set in the 1850s:

 

TOP TEN FAVORITE MOVIES SET IN THE 1850s

1-Django Unchained

1. “Django Unchained” (2012) – Quentin Tarantino directed this Oscar winning tale about a newly freed slave who searches for his still enslaved wife with the help of a German-born bounty hunter in Mississippi. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson starred.

 

2-The Charge of the Light Brigade

2. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1938) – Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland starred in this exciting adventure story set in both British India and the Crimean War. Michael Curtiz directed.

 

3-Race to Freedom The Underground Railroad

3. “Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad” (1994) – Courtney B. Vance and Janet Bailey starred in this television drama about the adventures of four slaves who escape from a North Carolina plantation, while being tracked by a pair of slave catchers. Don McBrearty directed.

 

4-Skin Game

4. “Skin Game” (1971) – James Garner and Lou Gossett Jr. starred in this dark comedy about a pair of con artists who clean up in a slave selling scheme in Missouri and Kansas, before their scam finally catches up with them. Paul Bogart directed.

 

5-Seven Brides For Seven Brothers

5. “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” (1954) – Stanley Donen directed this famous 1954 musical about six backwoodsmen brothers When a backwoodsman in the Oregon Territory, who decides to marry after their oldest brother brings home a wife. Jane Powell, Howard Keel and Russ Tambyln starred.

 

6-The First Great Train Robbery

6. “The First Great Train Robbery” (1979) – Michael Crighton wrote and directed this adaptation of his novel about three Victorian criminals who plot to rob a shipment of gold for British troops serving during the Crimean War, from a moving train. Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley Anne Down starred.

 

7-Wuthering Heights

7. “Wuthering Heights” (1939) – William Wyler directed this superb adaptation of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel. Merle Oberon, Laurence Olivier and David Niven starred.

 

8-Westward the Women

8. “Westward the Women” (1951) – William Wellman directed this excellent Western-adventure about a trail guide hired by a Californian rancher to escort a wagon train of women heading west to marry men who have settled in the rancher’s valley. Robert Taylor, Denise Darcel and John McIntire starred.

 

9-Mountains of the Moon

9. “Mountains of the Moon” (1990) Patrick Bergin and Iain Glen starred in this historical account of Victorian explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke’s expedition to find the source of the Nile River on behalf of the British Empire. Bob Rafelson directed.

 

10-Jezebel

10. “Jezebel” (1938) – William Wyler directed Oscar winners Bette Davis and Fay Bainter in this adaptation of Owen Davis Sr.’s 1933 play about a headstrong Southern woman, whose actions cost her the man she loves. Henry Fonda and George Brent co-starred.

Top Favorite Romantic Movies

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I decided to list my top ten favorite romantic movies. Here they are: 

 

TOP FAVORITE ROMANTIC MOVIES

2-Casablanca

1. “Casablanca” (1942) – Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman starred in this Oscar-winning adaptation of the unpublished 1940 stage play, “Everybody Comes to Rick”, which is about an expatriate American who is reunited with a former lover that happened to be married to a Resistance leader. Directed by Michael Curtiz, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains co-starred.

1-Lover Come Back

2. “Lover Come Back” (1961) – Rock Hudson and Doris Day co-starred in their second movie about rival advertising executives on Madison Avenue who clash over a product that does not exist. Directed by Delbert Mann, Tony Randall and Edie Adams co-starred.

3-It Happened One Night

3. “It Happened One Night” (1934) – Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert starred in this Oscar-winning adaptation of the Samuel Adams Hopkins short story, “Night Bus”. In it, an out-of-work journalist keeps tabs on a socialite running from her father to marry a playboy aviator. Frank Capra directed.

4-Brokeback Mountain

4. “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) – Ang Lee directed this Oscar winning adaptation of Annie Proulx’s short story about two mid 20th century cowboys who engage in a 20-year forbidden affair. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal starred.

5-The Lady Eve

5. “The Lady Eve” (1941) – Preston Sturges wrote and directed this comedy about a female cardsharp who falls for the heir of a brewery fortune. When he dumps her after discovering her profession, she turns on him in revenge. Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda starred.

6-When Harry Met Sally

6. “When Harry Met Sally” (1989) – Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan starred in this romantic comedy about two people who become friends during a cross-country trip and decide to abstain from sex to maintain their friendship over a period of twelve years. The movie was directed by Rob Reiner and written by Nora Ephron.

7-Hitch

7. “Hitch” (2005) – Will Smith and Eva Mendes starred in this romantic comedy about a professional dating consultant who falls for a gossip columnist determined to ruin the reputation of the unmasked so-called “date doctor”. Directed by Andy Tennant, the movie co-starred Kevin James.

8-The Notebook

8. “The Notebook” (2004) – Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams starred in this adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ 1996 novel about a young couple in 1940s South Carolina, who struggle to overcome class differences. Nick Cassavetes directed.

9-Random Harvest

9. “Random Harvest” (1942) – Ronald Coman and Greer Garson starred in this adaptation of James Hilton’s 1941 novel about an amnesiac World War I veteran woh falls in love with a music hall star, only to suffer an accident which restores his original memories, but erases his post-War life. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, the movie co-starred Susan Peters and Philip Dorn.

10-Wimbledon

10. “Wimbledon” (2004) – Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst starred in this romantic comedy about a British washed-up tennis player and an American up-and-coming star who meet and romance during the Wimbledon Championships. Directed by Richard Loncraine, the movie co-starred Sam Neill and Jon Favreau.

“HOW THE WEST WAS WON” (1962) Review

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“HOW THE WEST WAS WON” (1962) Review

This 1962 movie was among the last of the old-fashioned “epic” films that was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Filmed using the Cinerama widescreen process, it featured an all-star cast directed by at least three directors. 

After making the decision to use the Cinerama wide-screen process, MGM decided to produce a cinematic adaptation ofLIFE magazine’s 1959 series of articles about the history of the American West. Screenwriters James R. Webb and John Gay (uncredited) achieved this by focusing the film on two to three generations of family that migrated westward from western New York, to Southern Ohio, to California and finally to the deserts of Arizona. The story stretched out in a period of fifty (50) years from the late 1830s to the late 1880s. According to Wikipedia, the movie was set between 1839 and 1889. Yet, Webb and Gay’s script never indicated this. The movie consisted of five segments that were directed by three directors, Henry Hathaway, John Ford and George Marshall.

“The Rivers”, which was directed by Henry Hathaway, focused on the Prescott family’s journey from western New York to Southern Ohio, in an attempt to reach the Illinois country via the Erie Canal and the Ohio River. During their journey, they meet a mountain man named Linus Rawlins, who falls in love with eldest daughter, Eve; encounter murderous river pirates; and are caught in some dangerous rapids during their trip down the Ohio River. The last part of their journey ends in Southern Ohio, when the patriarch and matriarch of the Prescotts are drowned and Eve decides to remain there. She eventually marries Linus and her younger sister, Lilith decides to head to St. Louis.

In “The Plains”, Lilith Prescott is a dance hall entertainer in St. Louis, when she receives news of an inheritance – a California gold mine – from a former patron. In order to join a California-bound wagon train, Lilith becomes the traveling companion of a middle-aged woman named Agatha Clegg. She also becomes the romantic object of two men – the hard-nosed wagonmaster Roger Morgan (who has a ranch in California) and a professional gambler named Cleve Van Valen. Lilith eventually forms an attachment to Cleve. But when her inheritance turns out to be a bust upon their arrival in California, Cleve abandons her. He eventually reconciles with her on a Sacramento River steamboat and the two marry. Hathaway also directed.

John Ford directed “The Civil War”, a short segment about the experiences of Zeb Rawlins’ (Eve and Linus’ elder son) at the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War. Although Zeb survives, his father was killed during the battle, and his mother died before his return to the family’s Ohio farm. Zeb decides to remain in the Army after the war.

“The Railroad” was about Zeb’s experiences as an Army officer during the construction of the railroad during the late 1860s. He tries and fails to keep the peace between the construction crew led by a man named Mike King and the local Arapaho tribe. The Arapho incites a buffalo stampede through the railroad camp after King breaks another promise. And Zeb resigns from the Army. George Marshall directed.

Hathaway directed the final segment, “The Outlaws”, which featured Zeb’s last days as a law officer, as he tries to prevent a group of outlaws led by a man named Charlie Gant from stealing a shipment of gold. After he is successful, Zeb and his family join his widowed aunt Lilith on a trip to her new Arizona ranch.

“HOW THE WEST WAS WON” was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It won three won – Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Best Sound. It is also considered a favorite of director Ron Howard. I might as well be honest. I have always liked “HOW THE WEST WAS WON”. If I had not, I would have never purchased the DVD set. But I cannot see how it was ever nominated for Best Picture, let alone won the Best Screenplay Oscar. It was NOT that great. To me, “HOW THE WEST WAS WON” was a mediocre epic that featured a small handful of excellent performances, great photography and a superb score.

The fifty year period that spanned “HOW THE WEST WAS WON” struck me as more suitable for a television miniseries, instead of a movie – even if it had a running time of 162 minutes. There was too much going on in this film and its time span of fifty years was simply too long. The 2005 miniseries, “INTO THE WEST” had a similar premise, but it had the good luck to be aired in a six-part miniseries that ran for 552 minutes. And because of the lack of balance between the story’s premise/time span and its running time, the story about the Prescott-Rawlins family seemed half-empty . . . and rushed.

The best of the five segments are the first two directed by Henry Hathaway – “The River” and “The Plains”, which featured the Prescotts treks from New York, to Ohio. Although not perfect, thanks to some plot inconsistency and historical inaccuracy. What makes these two segments superior to the other three is that are longer and if I must be frank, more substantial. I could not decide between the two segments on which was my favorite. I enjoyed viewing the family’s journey down the Ohio River and the exciting battle with the river pirates. On the other hand, both Debbie Reynolds and Gregory Peck’s performances made “The Plains” very enjoyable for me.

But the worst of the three segments is the third one directed by John Ford – namely “The Civil War”. I hate to say this, but John Wayne did not make an effective William T. Sherman. The recently deceased Henry Morgan did a slightly better job as Ulysses S. Grant – frankly, by saying as little as possible. As for the segment, the screenwriters and Ford did not even bother to feature any plausible battle scenes of Shiloh. Instead, the audience was subjected to a quick montage of Civil War scenes from other MGM movies – probably 1957’s “RAINTREE COUNTRY”. The only good thing about this segment was the beginning scene, when Zeb said good-bye to his mother and younger brother . . . and the last scene, when he said good-bye and handed over his share of the family farm to his brother.

I enjoyed the work of the cinematography team led by the legendary William H. Daniels very much. I noticed that a great deal of the movie was shot on location in many of the national parks in the United States. However, the Cinerama process took away some of the grandeur with the curved lens, which made it impossible for Daniels and the others to film any effective close ups. And has anyone ever notice that whenever two of the actors seemed to facing each other, their lines of sight seemed to be slightly off? It must have been hell for the actors to face off each other in a scene, while being unnaturally positioned for the camera.

There were certain aspects of “HOW THE WEST WAS WON” that made it enjoyable for me. Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker, George Peppard, Gregory Peck, Thelma Ritter, Henry Fonda, Lee J.Cobb and Eli Wallach gave the best performances, as far as I am concerned. Spencer Tracy did a top-notch job as the film’s narrator. But I especially have to commend Reynolds, Baker and Peppard for damn near carrying this film. Without them, this movie would have folded like a sheet of paper. There were some performances that did not ring true to me. According to one scene that featured Linus Rawlings’ grave, Eve’s husband and Zeb’s father was born in 1810. I hate to say this, but James Stewart was too old – at the age of 53 or 54 – to be portraying a 29 year-old man. He gave an entertaining performance, but he was too damn old. Karl Malden, who portrayed Eve and Lilith’s father, struck me as a bit too hammy for my tastes. So were Robert Preston, who portrayed the gauche wagonmaster Roger Morgan; and Richard Widmark, who portrayed the railroad boss Mike King. Everyone else was . . . okay.

What was the best thing about “HOW THE WEST WAS WON”? The music. Period. It . . . was . . . superb. Every time I hear the first notes of Alfred Newman’s score at the beginning of the movie, I feel goosebumps. I love it that much. As much as I enjoyed John Addison’s score for “TOM JONES”, I find it mind boggling that it beat out Newman’s score for“HOW THE WEST WAS WON”. I just cannot conceive this. Newman also provided 19th century music from the era for the movie and it was used beautifully . . . especially in “The Plains” segment. With Reynolds portraying a dance hall performer, she provided moviegoers with entertaining renditions of songs like “What Was Your Name in the East?”“Raise a Ruckus” and the movie’s theme song, “Home in the Meadows”.

What else can I say about “HOW THE WEST WAS WON”? It is an entertaining movie. I cannot deny this. It featured first rate performances by the leads Debbie Reynolds, Carroll Baker and George Peppard. It featured beautiful photography shot by a team of cinematographers led by William Daniels. And it featured some gorgeous music, which included a superb score written by Alfred Newman. But it is a flawed movie tainted by historical inaccuracy and a story that would have been served best in a television miniseries. I am still astounded that it managed to earn a Best Picture Academy Award.

Favorite Romantic Comedies

Below is a list of my favorite romantic comedies in chronological order: 

FAVORITE ROMANTIC COMEDIES

1. “It Happened One Night” (1934) – Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert won Oscars in this Best Picture comedy about a newspaper who escorts a runaway bride to her husband from Miami to New York. Oscar winner Frank Capra directed.

2. “The Awful Truth” (1937) – Cary Grant and Irene Dunne co-starred in this screwball comedy about the machinations of a soon-to-be-divorced couple, that go to great lengths to try to ruin each other’s romantic escapades. Leo McCarey directed.

3. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) – Howard Hawks directed Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in this wild and funny tale about a scientist winding up in various predicaments involving a woman with a unique sense of logic and a leopard named Baby.

4. “The Lady Eve” (1941) – Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda co-starred in this funny and sexy tale about a beautiful con artist who falls in love with a bumbling millionaire. When he dumps her after learning the truth about his profession, she comes back into his life, disguised as an English aristocrat in order to torment him. Charles Coburn and William Demerest co-starred.

5. “The Palm Beach Story” (1942) – Preston Sturges also wrote this hilarious tale of a young wife who decides to raise money for her inventor husband by leaving him and finding a millionaire as a second husband. Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee and Mary Astor co-starred.

6. “Pillow Talk” (1959) – A man and woman who share a telephone line end up despising each other, until he decides to have fun by romancing her, disguised as a Texas millionaire. Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall co-starred in the first of their three films together in this Oscar winning comedy.

7. “Lover Come Back” (1962) – Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall reunite in this slightly more raucous comedy about advertising executives from rival companies who become embroiled in romance and deceit. Stanley Shapiro earned an Oscar nomination for his screenplay.

8. “French Kiss” (1995) – Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline are hilarious in this tale about an uptight woman with a fear of flying, who flies to France to confront her straying fiancé, but gets into trouble when the charming crook seated next to her uses her for smuggling. Timothy Hutton and Jean Reno co-starred.

9. “Kate and Leopold” (2001) – Meg Ryan, Golden Globe nominee Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber and Breckin Meyer co-starred in this charming story about a 19th century English duke who travels through time from 1876 New York to the present and falls in love with a career woman in the modern New York.

10. “The Ugly Truth” (2009) – Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler co-starred in this surprisingly funny and raunchy story about a Sacramento morning show producer who is reluctantly embroiled in a series of outrageous tests by her chauvinistic correspondent to prove his theories on relationships and help her find love. His clever ploys, however, lead to an unexpected result.

“THE LADY EVE” (1941) Review

Below is my review of the classic 1941 comedy, “THE LADY EVE”, which was was written and directed by Preston Sturges:

”THE LADY EVE” (1941) Review

I must admit that I have never been a diehard fan of Preston Sturges. I realize that he is the one Hollywood director and screenwriter credited for taking the screwball comedy format to a more mature level. And this is certainly apparent in his films. But of all of his movies, I can only think of two that I consider personal favorites of mine. And one of those two happen to be his 1941 comedy classic, ”THE LADY EVE”.

Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, ”THE LADY EVE” told the story about a mismatched romance between a beautiful con artist (Stanwyck) named Jean Harrington and Charles Pike (Fonda), the naïve heir to the Pike Ale fortune and a reptile expert. The pair met aboard an ocean liner bound from South America to the United States. Jean and her father, Colonel Harrington (Charles Coburn) decided to fleece Charles at cards, but she fell in love with him and ruined her father’s plans for a quick score. But Charles broke up the romance after learning that Jean and Colonel Harrington were gamblers and con artists, thanks to his ever vigilant valet/minder, Mugsy (William Demerest). Furious at being scorned, Jean re-entered Charles’ life, while masquerading as the posh “Lady Eve Sidwich” – niece of Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith (Eric Blore), another con man who’s been swindling the rich folk of Connecticut.

What can I say about ”THE LADY EVE”? It is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Period. And that is quite an achievement for a film that is almost seventy (70) years old. Do not get me wrong. I can think of other comedies made during this period that were just as funny. Unfortunately, a good number of them tend to lose steam by the film’s last fifteen minutes or so. A good example of this would be the two comedies that Cary Grant and Irene Dunne made together – ”THE AWFUL TRUTH” and ”MY FAVORITE WIFE”. But thanks to Sturges and Monckton Hoffe, who wrote the movie’s original story, allowed Jean’s deception and torment of Charles in order to keep the laughs going . It began with that first moment when Jean and Colonel Harrington spotted Charles boarding the ocean liner and ended right up to the film’s last flickering moment when a reconciled Charles and Jean kicked Mugsy out of her stateroom.

Some of my favorite scenes from the movie included the following:

*Jean’s criticisms of many other female passengers, determined to seduce poor Charles in some of the most hilarious and awkward ways ever conceived;.

*Jean’s seduction of Charles inside her stateroom;

*Mr. Pike’s (Eugene Pallette) frustration at the lack of a breakfast prepared for him;

*Mugsy’s attempts to determine whether Lady Eve Sidwich and Jean Harrington are ”the same dame”, during the Pikes’ dinner party for their aristocratic guests;

*Charles’ many pratfalls that threatened to ruin the dinner party;

*Lady Eve’s revelation of her less than virginal past with a score of men to a very stunned Charles during their honeymoon aboard a train

Naturally, I have to speak about the cast. Sturges filled it with some first-rate performers – whether they were character actors with minor roles that did not require any lines (think of the numerous shipboard females that attempted and failed to woo Charles Pike), or the two leads – Stanwyck and Fonda. There were certain performances that caught my eye. William Demarest was a hoot as Mugsy, Charles’ paranoid and very faithful retainer, whose suspicions of Jean as the Lady Eve provided some of the funniest moments in the film’s second half. Eugene Pallette was equally funny as the gruff Horace Pike, who seemed incapable of understanding his shy and scholarly son. And Charles Coburn made a cool Colonel Harrington, a card sharp who is also shrewd enough to gauge his daughter Jean’s feelings for Charles. And Eric Blore portrayed a deliciously over-the-top Sir Alfred McGlennan Keith, a fellow con artist of the Harringtons, who is recruited by Jean to portray her relative during her Lady Eve impersonation.

But this movie obviously belonged Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda as the two lovers – Jean Harrington and Charles Pike. Her Jean is so deliciously manipulative, yet passionate when she first falls for Charles. And Charles Pike has to be one of Fonda’s funniest role in his long career. Watching him struggle and fail to resist Jean’s charms filled me with a lot of laughs, along with his series of pratfalls during the sequence that featured the Pikes’ dinner party. Stanwyck and Fonda first worked together in the 1938 comedy mystery, ”THE MAD MISS MENTON”. In both ”MISS MENTON” and ”THE LADY EVE”, it seemed quite apparent that they truly enjoyed working together.

Monckton Hoffe had received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story. This is the only Academy Award nomination that the film had received, I find that a criminal oversight on the part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The New York Times had voted ”THE LADY EVE” as one of the ”10 Best Films of 1941”. The movie industry and the media in 1941 had vastly underrated the quality of this film, as far as I am concerned. Personally, I believe that it is one of the best movie comedies ever made. Period.