The Lady Eve (1941) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Lady Eve (1941)



Critic Consensus: A career highlight for Preston Sturges, The Lady Eve benefits from Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda's sparkling chemistry, and from a script that has inspired countless battle-of-the-sexes comedies.

Movie Info

(Preston Sturges) wrote and directed this classic romantic comedy starring Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck, who are involved in a scintillating battle of the sexes, as Sturges points up the terrors of sexual passion and the unattainability of the romantic ideal. Henry Fonda plays Charles Pike, the heir to the Pike Ale fortune ("The Ale That Won for Yale"). An ophiologist (a snake expert), he just spent a year "up the Amazon" looking for rare snakes with his cynical and protective guardian/valet Muggsy (William Demarest). He arrives to board the S.S. Southern Queen bound for New York, and immediately becomes the main order of business for a collection of single women looking to nab the eligible bachelor. Amongst those watching Charles board are a trio of con men and cardsharps -- Colonel Handsome Harry Harrington (Charles Coburn), his partner Gerald (Melville Cooper), and the Colonel's daughter Jean (Barbara Stanwyck). All three see Charles as a pushover and at dinner, while all the women are ogling Charles, Jean wins the day by sticking out her foot and tripping him. Complaining to Charles that he should watch where he is going, she gets him to escort her to her cabin so that she can replace her broken heel. Charles is sexually attracted to Jean, but when Charles is about to make a pass at her, she pulls back, telling him, "You ought to be put in a cage." Back in the dining room, Charles is introduced to the Colonel and the three play cards, Charles winning $500 from the Colonel and $100 from Jean. But Charles is merely being set-up for the next game when the Colonel will come in for the kill. Back at Jean's cabin, Charles and Jean sit close and something happens she hadn't planned -- she becomes attracted to Charles too. The next morning, Muggsy warns Charles that the Colonel and Jean are cardsharks, but Charles won't hear of it. Meanwhile, the Colonel is looking forward to fleecing Charles, but Jean doesn't want any part of it. Jean participates in the card game between Charles and the Colonel, making sure than the Colonel doesn't cheat. But while Jean waits on deck for Charles after the game, the Colonel plays Charles a game of double-or-nothing, with Charles losing $32,000. Jean, angry with her father, makes the Colonel tears up Charles' check. The next morning, Muggsy proves to Charles the three are con artists. Devastated, Charles shows Jean the photograph, claiming he knew she was a criminal the morning after he met her. Jean is determined to get even with Charles ("I hate that mug!"). Docking in New York, the Colonel reveals he merely palmed the $32,000 check. But that's not enough revenge for Jean. Impersonating an aristocratic English woman, Lady Eve Sidwich, Jean has herself introduced to Charles. Planning to make Charles to fall in love with her again, she intends to break his heart like he broke her own. As she explains, "I've got some unfinished business with him -- I need him like the axe needs the turkey."more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Romance, Classics, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Preston Sturges, Monckton Hoffe
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 16, 2001
MCA Universal Home Video


Barbara Stanwyck
as Jean Harrington
Henry Fonda
as Charles Pike
Janet Beecher
as Mrs. Pike
Robert Greig
as Burrows
Dora Clement
as Gertrude
Luis Alberni
as Pike's Chef
Frank Moran
as Party Bartender
Wilda Bennett
as Party Guest
Evelyn Beresford
as Party Guest
Sam Ash
as Husband on Boat
Georgia Cooper
as Party Guest
Gayne Whitman
as Party Guest
Wilson Benge
as Butlers at Party
Alfred Hall
as Party Guest
Bertram Marburgh
as Party Guest
George Melford
as Party Guest
Al Bridge
as Steward
Arthur Stuart Hull
as Party Guest
Kenneth Gibson
as Party Guest
Eva Dennison
as Mother on Boat
Pauline Drake
as Social Secretary
Harry Rosenthal
as Piano Tuner
Helen Dickson
as Mother on Boat
Abdullah Abbas
as Man with Potted Palm
John Hartley
as Young Man on Boat
Robert Warwick
as Bank Manager
Betty Farrington
as Mother on Boat
Jack Richardson
as Father of Girl on Bo...
Ray Flynn
as Lawyer
Harry Depp
as Man With Glasses on ...
Esther Michelson
as Wife on Boat
Robert Dudley
as Husband on Boat
Norman Ainsley
as Sir Alfred's Manserv...
Jimmy Conlin
as Steward
Alan Bridge
as Steward
Victor Potel
as Steward
Reginald Sheffield
as Prof. Jones
Wanda McKay
as Daughter on Boat
Arthur Hoyt
as Lawyer at Telephone ...
Frances Raymond
as Old Lady on Boat
Ella Neal
as Daughter on Boat
Joe North
as Butler at Party
Cyril Ring
as Husband on Boat
Pat West
as Bartender
Harry A. Bailey
as Lawyer in Pike's Off...
Almeda Fowler
as Mother on Boat
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Lady Eve

Critic Reviews for The Lady Eve

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (7)

The picture returns the lately heavily dramatic Barbara Stanwyck to glamor.

Full Review… | February 10, 2014
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Barbara Stanwyck is the sexiest con woman ever captured on film.

Full Review… | June 16, 2012
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic

Third writer-director effort of Preston Sturges [from a story by Monckton Hoffe] is laugh entertainment of top proportions with its combo of slick situations, spontaneous dialog and a few slapstick falls tossed in for good measure.

Full Review… | November 13, 2007
Top Critic

Preston Sturges extended his range beyond the crazy farces that had made his reputation with this romantic 1941 comedy, and his hand proved just as sure.

Full Review… | November 13, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A beguilingly ribald sex comedy, spattered with characteristic Sturges slapstick.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Now there's no question about it: Preston Sturges is definitely and distinctly the most refreshing new force to hit the American motion pictures in the past five years.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Lady Eve

Barbara Stanwyck exudes enough sexuality to spark a fence post. I don't think I've ever seen a film with such perfect casting. Hilarious and brilliant.

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

An unusual romantic comedy, it's really funny, and has a good cast. Really worth watching.

Aj V

Super Reviewer


Hah! Delightful!! I'm not sure who was the bigger scene stealer, Barbra Stanwyck or Henry Fonda, I loved them both. Fonda was sweet and naive while Stanwyck was closer to her Ball of Fire role, witty and fiery and perfect! The story lagged a bit here and there, but the humor kept me going.

Jennifer D

Super Reviewer

The Lady Eve Quotes

– Submitted by Chris P (4 years ago)

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