Barbara Stanwyck was one of the most iconic actors of her generation. In a glittering career which spanned five decades, she won five Academy Awards and became one of the most recognisable faces of Hollywood. A favourite of the likes of Fritz Lang and Cecil B. DeMille, she was noted for her confident and striking performances. In 1941, she starred in Preston Sturges’ Lady Eve, which is one of her best and most vivacious roles.
Jean (Barbara Stanwyck) is travelling onboard an ocean liner with her father ‘Colonel’ Harrington (Charles Coburn) and his partner Gerald (Melville Cooper). The trio are notorious card sharks and have their eyes on their next victim. The hapless Charles Pike (Henry Fonda), the heir to a brewery fortune. Whilst other passengers try and catch his eye, Pike’s drawn to her beauty and lively personality. However, as they move in on their prize, Jean’s surprised to discover that she’s falling for him.
Much of Stanwyck’s fame came from starring in screwball comedies, and this is easily one of the best. Jean is a force of nature. Irrepressible and unstoppable. However, beneath her shiny facade lurks hidden depths which slowly bubble to the surface. Whilst the script is sharp and there are some wonderful supporting performances, notably from William Demarest as Charles’ minder, it’s the New York native’s turn which takes your breath away. Lady Eve is a sparkling and effervescent romantic comedy.
Special edition features:
• New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary from 2001 featuring film professor Marian Keane
• Introduction from 2001 by filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich
• Interview from 2020 with writer-director Preston Sturges’s biographer and son Tom Sturges and friends
• New video essay by film critic David Cairns
• Costume designs by Edith Head
• Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1942 featuring Barbara Stanwyck and Ray Milland
• Audio recording of “Up the Amazon,” a song from an unproduced stage musical based on the film
• English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a 1946 profile of Preston Sturges from LIFE magazine
Lady Eve is released on Blu-ray by Sony Pictures as part of the Criterion Collection on 10 August.