The New Pictures, Mar. 10, 1941

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The Lady Eve (Paramount) is Writer-Director Preston Sturges' third straight comedy hit (following The Great McGinty, Christmas in July). It displays a complete set of highly original box-office wiles from the opening moment when a cartooned snake wriggles down the title and gets stuck trying to crawl through the O in Sturges' first name. The picture returns the lately heavily dramatic Barbara Stanwyck to glamor, with 25 swank costume changes, and reveals homespun Henry Fonda, with a drawing room haircut and 14 sound tailoring jobs, as one of the screen's most socially eligible juveniles.

He is the snake-specialist son of a millionaire brewer. Returning from an Amazon snake hunt, on the ship he falls in love with a member of a card-sharping trio (Barbara Stanwyck) who has stroked his hair, tickled his ears and seemed eager at just the right moments. Says he in the midst of her seductions: "It's funny to be kneeling here at your feet talking about beer." She comes to feel just the way she seems, but temporarily conceals her past to protect her partners. When Fonda finds out, he gives her up. Out for revenge, she arranges to visit his home as an English peeress (her resemblance to the girl on the boat becomes a comic asset rather than a plot difficulty). She gets him to marry her—then on the honeymoon train so out rages him with fibs about other men that he quits the train in his silk pajamas. Of course he sails for the Amazon again and so does she.

The story obliges the handsomely dressed Fonda to sprawl headlong twice over Miss Stanwyck's legs, tumble across a sofa and land with his face in a plate of hors d'oeuvres, take a drenching of hot coffee, receive a mess of roast beef and gravy in his lap, endure numerous other accidents. They are all funny. More importantly, Stanwyck and Fonda play throughout with a comic agility matching Sturges' frothy script.

Tobacco Road (20th Century-Fox) is a film perversion of the longest-running play in theatrical history, now in its eighth year. Jack Kirkland's stage play, adapted from Erskine Caldwell's novel, is a low-down drama of dirt, malnutrition and moral decay among Georgia backwoods farmers. It is full of rank, rutty sexuality, cretin humors, and a certain comedy of destruction.

For years Hollywood shied away from the play's degeneracy. But last year Producer Darryl Zanuck managed to disinfect John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath to the satisfaction of the Hays office and the family trade. Soon Producer Zanuck paid more than $200,000 for Tobacco Road, put his Grapes of Wrath crew on the job (Screenwriter Nunnally Johnson, Director John Ford), got Charley Grapewin, who played Grandpa Joad in The Grapes, to play the slovenly, bearded farmer jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road.

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