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Fast-Talking Dames$
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Maria DiBattista

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780300088151

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300088151.001.0001

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The Lady Eve and the Female Con

The Lady Eve and the Female Con

(p.298) 9 The Lady Eve and the Female Con
Fast-Talking Dames

Maria DiBattista

Yale University Press

This chapter looks at Preston Sturges's accomplished study of America's finest comic specimen: sucker sapiens, in the film The Lady Eve. In it, heroine Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck) is a fast-talking dame never at a loss for a word or a palmed card, whereas the hero, Charles “Hopsie” Pike (Henry Fonda) has a shy demeanor and halting speech, making him an easy mark for Jean. The end of the film concludes with a paradoxical moral: the hero must be swindled in order to be enriched, venturing all chances for happiness on a gambler, a dissembler, and a sexual cheat. This is seen as a moral that needs to be impressed upon the American character, whose faith in democratic manners is attached to the belief that moral innocence is ultimately superior to cunning, that the plainspoken are valued over the quick-witted. The Lady Eve, then, is Sturges's exposition of the naivete that authorizes such a disingenuous view of how the world works and how people are formed within it.

Keywords:   Preston Sturges, The Lady Eve, Barbara Stanwyck, fast-talking dame, Henry Fonda, moral innocence

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