TWO FACES OF EVE

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The Lady Eve (1941) was written and directed by Preston Sturges and began a string of hits for him, including Sullivan’s Travels(1942) and The Palm Beach Story (1942). Sturges’ witty dialogue and use of slapstick comedy place The Lady Eve firmly in the pantheon of screwball comedy classics. The first draft of the script submitted to the Hays Office was so racy, implying a sexual affair between the main characters, that it was rejected by Joseph I. Breen at the Motion Picture Production Code. The affair, “treated without the proper compensating moral values, … is in violation of the Production Code, and will have to be eliminated entirely from your completed picture.” Breen also specified “some questionable lines of dialogue.”

The film’s stars, Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, both played against type. Stanwyck had usually been cast in dramatic parts in films such as Stella Dallas(1937) and Union Pacific (1939). But the film was an even bigger departure for Fonda. Falling and being tripped throughout the movie, his slapstick performance is a long way from his more earnest roles in Grapes of Wrath (1940) and Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).

The French grande (above) and the American one-sheet poster for The Lady Eve both feature the same embrace between the film’s stars but to very different effects. Setting Stanwyck and Fonda against a heart in the larger format French poster, as opposed to the apple and snake used in the American poster, emphasizes the romance of the film rather than Stanwyck’s duplicity in seducing Fonda twice.

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Preston Sturges’ work at Paramount Studios is well documented in the Margaret Herrick Library’s Paramount Pictures production records collection. Holdings for The Lady Eve found in these records include correspondence, budgets and production costs.

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