The Lady Eve is known as one of Preston Sturges most memorable slapstick comedies. It stars Barbara Stanwyck as Jean Harrington, a sneaky con artist and Henry Fonda as the naive Charles Pike, an ophiologist and the heir to the Pike Ale fortune. Although The Lady Eve seems like any other romantic comedy about a man and women that fall in love, but are forced to deal with hardships along their path to being with one another, it is actually a lot more complicated. It deals with themes of reality verses illusion and includes numerous misunderstandings, symbolisms and complications.
One of the first moments that we notice Jeans desires, is in the memorable scene on the boat as she spies on Charles through her mirror as he rejects all the other gold diggers that are on the boat while he reads his book titled “Are Snakes Necessary” which is a pun on the popular book of the time called “Is Sex Necessary”. Sturges brilliantly uses the snake in many occasions throughout the movies to symbolize sex. Such as the scene when Jean lures Charles to his room. She thinks that he uses the word snake as a metaphor for his sexual desires but is shocked when she finds out that he actually has a snake in his room.
One of Sturges most important themes in this film was the idea of reality verses illusions. There were many instances when Jean was dishonest about herself to Charles. We also notice this when Charles ridiculously falls for the so called “twin”, when he should obviously have been aware of the impossibleness of it all, yet was blinded by his love of anything that resembled Jean. I guess that Sturges was trying to depict the irrationality of people who are in love and the things that one gets suckered into when they do fall for someone.
The lady Eve is an amazing work of comedic art and has really set the stage for the romantic comedies of the future. It also makes you realize that your better off being a sucker in love, than lonely cynic.