Today is Henry Fonda's birthday -- it's been 101 years since he was born, although he died in 1982. It's the perfect excuse for me to post a wonderful photo from one of my favorite movies: The Lady Eve. The 1941 comedy was written and directed by Preston Sturges and is an absolutely delightful romp, one of the last great Thirties-style comedies. An amazingly young Fonda plays a beer-brewing magnate's heir who isn't interested in beer or in any of the lovely ladies trying to ensnare him into marriage -- he is obsessed by his study of snakes. However, before he is even aware of it, the slipperiest female around manages to hook him. That would naturally be Barbara Stanwyck, playing the cynical daughter of a master con artist. And that's only the beginning of the odd and hilarious plot. The dialogue is priceless -- I love the line is "I need him like the axe needs the turkey," and I get a kick out of Stanwyck's character's attempts to act British. The cast includes some of my favorite Thirties character actors, including Eric Blore, Charles Coburn, and Eugene Pallette.
Criterion has released a very nice DVD of The Lady Eve, and if you're looking for a slightly askew comedy, this would be an excellent rental choice. If nothing else, you can marvel at how Fonda looks almost babyish in appearance, especially compared to his later roles in Mister Roberts, 12 Angry Men, and On Golden Pond. I found the above image on The Palace, a site devoted to classic Hollywood films that includes a number of other lovely stills from Thirties and Forties comedies.