Easy Living

Easy Living

Director: Mitchell Leisen

Cast: Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland

     
 

Financier J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold) -- known in the press as "the Bull of Broad Street" -- may be one of the wealthiest investment bankers in the country, but he also knows the value of a dollar. And when his wife (Mary Nash) spends 50,000 of them on a sable coat, he is driven into such a fury in the ensuing argument on the roof of their Fifth Avenue townhouse, that… See more details below

Overview

Financier J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold) -- known in the press as "the Bull of Broad Street" -- may be one of the wealthiest investment bankers in the country, but he also knows the value of a dollar. And when his wife (Mary Nash) spends 50,000 of them on a sable coat, he is driven into such a fury in the ensuing argument on the roof of their Fifth Avenue townhouse, that he throws the coat into the street -- where it promptly lands on the head of Mary Smith (Jean Arthur), a clerk-typist on her way to work, riding on the upper deck of a double-decker bus, ruining her hat in the process. She jumps off the bus to try to return the coat, but Ball insists that she keep it. What she really needs, however, is not a 50,000-dollar sable coat so much as a ride to work -- as she doesn't even have a dime for bus fare -- and perhaps a new hat. Ball obliges, taking her to one of the top clothing stores in New York, buying her an expensive fur hat to go with the coat, and then dropping her at work in his limo. Her superiors, seeing her decked out in a sable coat and a new hat, and getting out of the chauffeured car, conclude that Mary is a kept woman, and, therefore, unfit to work for the boys magazine where she is employed, and they fire her. Now out of work and virtually broke, she seems to have become a victim of random fate, but suddenly the scales start to tip the other way from the very same misunderstanding that got her fired. Having been seen in the company of J.B. Ball -- whose name she didn't even get -- she is rumored to be his mistress; the prissy clothing store proprietor (Franklin Pangborn) spreads this story, and that turns Mary into the object of attention for Mr. Louis Louis (Luis Alberni), the owner of a failed luxury hotel on which Ball's bank holds the mortgage, and is about to foreclose. For reasons that she can't begin to understand, since there is nothing going on between her and J.B. Ball (whose name she doesn't even know), or between her and anyone, Louis moves her into the most luxurious suite in his hotel for a dollar a day, asking her only to inform "that certain someone" of how she loves living there. Mary has no idea of who "that certain someone" is, or what Louis is talking about, but she needs a place to live, and Louis is insistent. She still needs to eat, and, while trying to get a meal at the automat, she crosses paths with a handsome, well-meaning, but inept waiter (Ray Milland), who gets fired for helping her. She takes him into her suite so he has a place to stay, and the two fall in love in the course of finding out about each other. She knows that he is John Ball Jr., but doesn't realize that he is the son of J.B. Ball, trying to make it on his own, nor does she yet realize who J.B. Ball is, in terms of being the man who gave her the coat and the new hat, or one of the wealthiest men in the country. But after the elder Ball spends an innocent night at the Hotel Louis, a gossip columnist named "Wallace Whistling" (William Demarest) prints that he is keeping a woman at the hotel, and suddenly the Hotel Louis, perceived as a fashionable playground for the upper-crust, is filled with guests. This multiple case of mistaken identity plunges through two or three new layers, eventually bringing about an impending stock market crash to rival 1929, before Mary discovers who her would-be benefactor and her would-be fiancé are. She bails them out of the jam that they're in, also restoring the Ball's marriage, her own reputation, and her romance with Ball's son in the process.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
One of the most beautifully scripted and plotted screwball comedies of the 1930s, Easy Living unfolds with the interlocking complexity of a Rube Goldberg invention. Adapted by Preston Sturges from a play by Vera Caspary, Easy Living's mix of slapstick humor, topical "in" jokes ("Wallace Whistling" being a great roman-a-clef for gossip columnist Walter Winchell), social realism, and social satire, make it one of the most potent viewing experiences that one can find among 1930s comedies. Elements of its story recall works such as Mark Twain's story The Million Pound Note, as well as early '30s topical comedies such as Zoltan Korda's Cash, while other aspects call to mind such future Sturges works as Christmas in July, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, and Hail the Conquering Hero. The plot and the pacing of most of the movie will leave even modern viewers breathless with laughter. The picture's frantic, screwball trajectory and velocity are compromised ever so slightly by just a couple of slow points. Director Mitchell Leisen occasionally lets the action drag in ways that Sturges, once he started directing his own scripts, never would have permitted. Sturges would have treated his script's obligatory romance between the hero and heroine with enough breezy humor to let it flow freely from one section of the satirical body of the work into another. Leisen, by contrast, has it played straight and sincere, with all of the attendant seriousness of purpose entailed therein -- at the time of its release few viewers probably minded, but it is lapses like those that separate a great (and often excruciatingly funny) movie, which Easy Living is, from a cinematic masterpiece of the caliber of Sturges' own movies. Even if he didn't regard the direction as worthy of the script, Sturges did take a close look at some of the players involved, and lost no opportunity to make use of them in his own movies. Among the future members of the Sturges stock company who can be spotted here -- working in capacities very similar to what they would do for Sturges -- are Robert Greig, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Olaf Hytten, and Arthur Hoyt. Although not quite in a league with My Man Godfrey, It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby, or His Girl Friday, Easy Living is close enough to merit audiences as big as theirs, and also close enough to Sturges' own movies in content, if not approach, to demand attention from his fans as well. And certainly no movie ever portrayed the interaction of the different classes of New York City during the Great Depression in a zanier fashion.

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Product Details

Release Date:
04/22/2008
UPC:
0025193299123
Original Release:
1937
Rating:
NR
Source:
Universal Studios
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[Full Frame]
Time:
1:29:00
Sales rank:
12,555

Special Features

Exclusive introduction by Turner Classic Movies host and film historian Robert Osborne

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jean Arthur Mary Smith
Edward Arnold J.B. Ball
Ray Milland John Ball, Jr.
Luis Alberni Mr. Louis Louis
Mary Nash Mrs. J. B. Ball
Franklin Pangborn Van Buren
Barlowe Borland Mr. Gurney
William Demarest Wallace Whistling
Andrew Tombes E.F. Hulgar
Esther Dale Lillian
Harlan Briggs Office Manager
William B. Davidson Mr. Hyde
Nora Cecil Miss Swerf
Robert Greig Graves, Ball Butler
Stanley Andrews Captain
Bennie Bartlett Newsboy
Wilson Benge Butler
Lee Bowman Actor
Sidney Bracey Chauffeur
Don Brodie Auto Salesman
Ethel Clayton Actor
Dora Clement Saleslady
George Cowl Bank President
Virginia Dabney Blonde
Hal K. Dawson Jeweler
John Dilson Nervous Man
Florence Dudley Cashier
Harold Entwistle Elevator Man
Jesse Graves Porter
Robert E. Homans Private Guard
Marsha Hunt Actor
Olaf Hytten Actor
Adia Kuznetzoff Bum
Nick Lukats Bit
John Marshall Osric
Rex Moore Elevator Boy
Frances Morris Assistant Secretary
Bob Murphy Automat Detective
Forbes Murray Husband
Dennis O'Keefe Office Manager
Lee Phelps Hotel Detective
John Picorri Oinest
Kate Price Laundress
Jack Raymond Actor
Hector V. Sarno Armenian Rug Salesman
Francis Sayles Houseman
Leonid Snegoff Chef
Hayden Stevenson Chauffeur
Bernard Suss Man in Automat
Laura Treadwell Wife
William Wagner Valet
Gloria Williams Actor
Florence Wix Woman in Hat Shop
Harry Worth Hindu
Hal Greene Bellhop
Gertrude Astor Saleswoman
Vernon Dent 1st Partner
Arthur Hoyt Jeweler
Edwin Stanley 2nd Partner

Technical Credits
Mitchell Leisen Director
Travis Banton Costumes/Costume Designer
Hans Dreier Art Director
Farciot Edouart Special Effects
Ernst Fegte Art Director
A.E. Freudeman Set Decoration/Design
Doane Harrison Editor
Arthur Hornblow Producer
Boris Morros Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Preston Sturges Screenwriter
Ted Tetzlaff Cinematographer
Wally Westmore Makeup

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