Preston Sturges based his script for The Lady Eve (1941) on a story by one Monckton Hoffe and then directed what was one of the best screwball comedies of the Hollywood-studio years. In it, a father-and-daughter con artist team attempts to bamboozle a wealthy young snake expert (Henry Fonda) but, as it happens, a cynic, the daughter (Barbara Stanwyck), falls for a non-cynic, the young man. She never misses a beat. Imperturbably she aimed to cheat him at cards, now she imperturbably likes the fellow and says no to cheating him—except that he soon breaks up with her.
The old charmer, Sturges, is at it again—teasing us with hard reality before proving once more that he’s in a romantic mood. The hard reality is Stanwyck’s elaborate plot to—get even?—with Fonda, who does need to learn a little lesson.
Even more fun than The Great McGinty, Eve is a farce of manners, an unfrothy romp. Stanwyck is fine in her juicy role, but I like Sturges’s The Palm Beach Story a bit more because Claudette Colbert looks more feminine than Stanwyck.