Saturday, July 20, 2013

EASY LIVING | 1937 | Cinderella meets Looney Toons

I started this post in October 2012.  I thought I'd published it, but just saw it was still a draft, so I opened it and saw that it wasn't finished at all.  

All it said was this:

Looney Toons meets Cinderella meets AMELIE.
Jean Arthur: There isn't anyone better.

Now that I look at it, maybe that is a finished post.  It's all that really needs to be said about this film.  Except the AMELIE part.  There are hints of it, but not enough to make it worth exploring any further.

But this is a blog about Screwball Comedies, so I should make an effort to dig a bit deeper, so here goes.

It's definitely a Screwball Comedy, but I'm not sure if it's Classic Screwball...  I'm not sure if it's in the company of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, PLATINUM BLONDE, MY MAN GODFREY, and MIDNIGHT.  I want to put it there, but something is stopping me.  Let's talk this through, maybe I can figure out why it's more of a 20th CENTURY or TO BE OR NOT TO BE player (not a bad place to be, really).

Class Conflict?
A little bit.  But not really.  Mary Smith (Jean Arthur) is fired because her employer is alarmed by the very expensive fur coat she's wearing.  When an automat descends into chaos, the holler of "Free food!" brings a large crowd streaming in off the street.  There are characters who belong to different classes in this film, and they conflict with each other, but only for laughs.

Urban Setting?
NYC and no where else.

Art & Fart?
Check and check.  There's some great physical comedy that will have to count as the Fart end of the spectrum (food fight at the automat, a bath/shower large enough to clean an elephant is as difficult to turn off as it is to turn on, a fish bowl falling off a balcony, and more).  The art of it all is, as per usual with Sturges, in the dialog.

Baseline dissatisfaction with the status-quo?
I think this is what makes it screwball and not Classic Screwball.  Characters in this movie are dissatisfied with their status-quo, but not necessarily The Status Quo.  Well, actually, our hero Mary seems pretty content with the status quo, but then ends up belonging to the family of a top banker so wealthy his wife spends $58,000 on a fur coat.  And John Jr. is upset with the status quo, but mostly because his banker Dad scolds him for buying an Italian race car.  And, in the end, the banker is as wealthy as he started, his wife values him a little bit more than his money (just a little bit), and his son is making good banking and relationship decisions.  Class divisions are drawn, but mostly reinforced by the end of the story.

Which is fine.  I don't mind it.  I love the film.  But it just doesn't tick all the same boxes the really strong Screwball Comedies do, the Classics.

Oh, I should have left this at the two lines.  There's so much to say about this one and I've just phoned it in, really.  I'll try to circle back to this one.  Either updating the post or creating a supplemental post.  

Released: 1937
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Leads: Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland
Writer: Vera Caspary (story), Preston Sturges
Genre: Screwball Comedy, Romantic Comedy, Classic Screwball
Plot Summary and reviews of EASY LIVING @ Rotten Tomatoes