Easy Living

1937, Movie, NR, 88 mins

Review

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Preston Sturges wrote the screenplay for this hilarious screwball comedy about a working girl whose life is turned upside down by a millionaire and his son.

Millionaire banker J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold) lectures his son John Ball Jr. (Ray Milland) for being a lazy spendthrift, then discovers that his wife has bought a $58,000 sable coat. He throws it off the roof of their penthouse and it lands on Mary Smith (Jean Arthur), ruining her hat. Ball tells her she can keep the coat, and also buys her a new hat, but when she shows up at work late, she's fired. Mr. Louis Louis (Luis Alberni) is told by Ball that he has one week to pay the back mortgage on the Hotel Louis or Ball will foreclose, but Louis is told by a milliner (Franklin Pangborn) that Mary is Ball's mistress, so Louis gives her the most lavish suite in the hotel to appease Ball. Mary goes to eat at the automat, where she unwittingly meets John Ball Jr. who's taken a job as a busboy to impress his father. John goes with Mary back to her suite and spends the night there, and the elder Ball also checks into the hotel after his wife leaves him. In the morning, the hotel suddenly becomes fashionable after a gossip columnist (William Demarest) reports that Mary is Ball's mistress and is staying there.

Preston Sturges's imaginative script is one of his best, adroitly mixing his customary satire of capitalism and the class system with some dazzling dialogue and hilarious slapstick. The entire cast is perfection, from the tyrannical Edward Arnold, to the charming Jean Arthur, to the insouciant Ray Milland, and of course, the usual Paramount stock company of superb character actors, particularly Franklin Pangborn as the prissy milliner. Everyone throws dignity out the window and even the stars have a great time indulging in broad slapstick, including some hysterical fistfights and pratfalls. Leisen's direction is, as always, smooth and elegant, although the film is sometimes slowly paced and deliberate, lacking the mad whirl of frantic craziness that Sturges later brought to his own films as a director. leave a comment

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