Well, Johnny catches her, and it’s happy endings for all. Except for Mrs. Ball, who loses her sable coat once again:
Arthur was extremely frustrated and dissatisfied with her Columbia contract. She didn’t like the films she was being given by Columbia, and she didn’t like being under their control when it came to loan-outs, either. As she said in a deposition, “I told [Columbia] that I would not go back into pictures just to make money. I wanted to make quality pictures and to amount to something, or else not be in the business.”
My favourite movie of all time is Remember the Night. This is writer Preston Sturges and director Mitchell Leisen's other collaboration. It's also amazing. Light on plot, long on Leisen getting a bit distracted by nice clothes and the coolest bathtub in the history of the world, but amazing nonetheless.
A naive girl just out of a cloistered orphanage finds that being a 'good fairy' to strangers makes life awfully complicated.
Johnny is fired, obviously, and Mary feels terribly. She thinks that Johnny is like her, a broke, hardworking person down on his luck. Remember, Mary doesn’t know that Johnny is Mr. Ball’s son, and Johnny doesn’t know that everyone thinks (wrongly, of course) that Mary is Mr. Ball’s mistress. Think of all the comedy that can arise from this situation!
As Johnny pieces together the story of his father’s affair with Mary, and the steel debacle, Mary returns to the Hotel Louis.
Meanwhile, she played Mary Smith in this screwball adventure with its typical Depression-era Cinderella story of rags-to-riches, and a riches-to-rags-to-riches plot, too.
Mary begins receiving offers from people eager to cash in on her notoriety. One firm gives her an expensive sixteen-cylinder car, and hotel owner Mr. Louis Louis (Luis Alberni) installs her in a luxury suite, hoping that this will deter Ball from foreclosing on his failing establishment.
But eventually J.B. and Mary become good pals (though not as good as some will assume…) He notices that the feather in her pert little cap is broken (when the coat fell it snapped the feather). Mr. Ball insists on buying her a new hat. He takes her to a chic salon and purchases an expensive chapeau that matches the fur coat. Turns out he has no problem spending money on someone who he thinks deserves it.
The news has gone 1937’s version of viral. In a comical montage, everyone who is anyone, or who wants to be, suddenly packs up and moves to the now-famous and hot Hotel Louis. This includes two brassy “ladies” who decide to go where the bankers are…
As Mary is losing her job, J.B. Ball is meeting with Louis Louis (Luis Alberni, Roberta), a hotelier whose luxury Hotel Louis is behind on all three of its mortgages. J.B. tells Louis that he has one more week to fix things, otherwise J.B. is going to foreclose. Keep this in mind…
I always enjoy Mitchell Leisen’s movies; they’re quick, witty, and stunningly beautiful. Leisen is a unique director because he started out in art direction and costume design on 1920s and early 1930s Paramount productions before becoming a director. His prodigious talents and experience in design influenced his work as a director, and his movies present a delicious, gorgeously designed version of reality.
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Mary is baffled by this sudden shower of freebies.…but she takes the clothes with a smile and a thank you.
Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin composed the song "Easy Living" for the film, and it has since become a jazz standard, made famous by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and many other jazz singers.
My favorite part of this chaotic scene is that the ice cream chute, next to the coffee spigot, starts shooting rounded scoops of ice cream onto the shelf below at amusingly regular intervals. Plop, plop, plop!
Within a few minutes of her arrival, Mary is called into the editor’s office and asked about the coat. She tells the truth, but they don’t believe that the fur coat fell from the sky. Who would? They demand the real story.
The actor would not get any piece of the loan-out fee, which meant that although the home studio could profit handsomely from such deals, the actor would not see any of this extra cash.
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.
You are so welcome! I think you’ll have a blast with Champagne For Ceasar. Here’s Art Linkletter talking with Vincent Price about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHNQ7yM5HmA The clip they have at youtube on the film is kinda boring…. the movie as a whole is more fun.
When Johnny turns around, there’s a burly security officer at his shoulder. Johnny tries to run for it, but trips and falls, bringing down a whole stack of plates, too. As he and the security office scuffle, one of their feet kicks a lever, thus opening all the automat windows and sending beverages spilling out of their spigots.
He demands that she return the new coat; instead she grabs the sable and runs away…after a comical chase around their mansion, J.B. corners Jenny and throws the coat off the roof.
A handsome young waiter notices this beautiful woman in a fancy fur coat and hat. It’s Johnny Ball, who has indeed gotten a job despite his father’s doubts!
Just as she’s breaking the piggy bank, a telegram from the posh Hotel Louis arrives:
Easy Living (1937)
At breakfast, Mary and Johnny look for jobs in the newspaper, though they both conveniently overlook “The Back Door” column. Even with her new “easy living,” Mary is determined to get back to work, and she wants to get Johnny a new job, too. She’s concerned about him, as he seems to have no training or experience in anything. He’s discouraged, too:
Preston Sturges had signed a deal with Paramount in 1936, and Easy Living was his first assignment for them. Although putatively based on a story by Vera Caspary, Sturges in fact supposedly kept almost nothing of it except the mink coat. When a studio executive rejected the script because "1936 was not the time for comedies", Sturges took the script directly to Mitchell Leisen, of which Sturges said "going to a director over the head of my producer was not a sagacious move."
Thanks, John! Edward Arnold is a champion shouter, that’s for sure! Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think of Easy Living when you watch it again!
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Jean Arthur is a peach in “Easy Living”. This is a depression era fantasy and it is a blast seeing Arthur’s character get extraordinary breaks in life. The Preston Sturges screenplay is quick and topsy-turvy as expected. The picture starts to collapse at the weight of the insanity near the end, but it holds its shape enough for a good finish.
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I mean there is obviously more to the movie than that, it's Mitchell Leisen (an underrated pleasure) and Preston Sturges (rated just fine) with all the supporting shtick players whose names Sturges wrote down and hired over and over once he was given the chance. But oh, Jean Arthur, who even thnks about the other stuff.
Edward Arnold almost always looks as if he is on the verge of a heart attack, and he never talks, he yells. At one point his faithful secretary implores him to calm down with a “J.B, your blood pressure!” but it doesn’t seem to help.
Johnny watches Mary and comes to a daring decision. He tells her that he will open the windows from the kitchen side so that she can get some food for free. He likes her. And she’s really hungry. So she agrees to the scheme and meets him at the beef pies. Isn’t he adorable?
Meanwhile, J.B. drops Mary off at the offices of “The Boys’ Constant Companion,” the wholesome Boy Scout-esque magazine where Mary works. Her coworkers are sour old ladies, caricatures of prudish librarians in their spectacles, high-necked dark dresses, and center-parted low buns. Young, spunky Mary with her stylish dress and curls does not fit in.
It’s easy living, indeed! You’ll also notice that the film was shot by Ted Tetzlaff (The Princess Comes Across, Notorious, Love Before Breakfast, My Man Godfrey, The More the Merrier), and the costumes were designed by Travis Banton (Cover Girl, The Princess Comes Across, We’re Not Dressing, Love Before Breakfast, Hands Across the Table, My Man Godfrey) both of whom were Paramount people and were frequently assigned to Carole Lombard’s films, too.
Ironically enough, it’s this act of generosity that gets Mary and J.B. in trouble. When J.B. hands the hat salesman Van Buren (Franklin Pangborn, My Man Godfrey, The Palm Beach Story, Sullivan’s Travels, Now, Voyager) his card, Van Buren takes note of Mary’s outrageously expensive coat and new hat, and makes a nasty but not entirely insane assumption…this girl must be the famous financier’s mistress! Why else would he take her shopping?
Johnny thinks she’s lost it, but he takes her to the pet store anyway where she buys two enormous woolly dogs with the bangs all over their faces. And some fish and birds, too.
Okay--3 masterpieces in, and Leisen must be one of the greatest. This is amazing... They even say my favorite line, "Holy Mackerel." Alexa wants to remake this with Kanye, Kim, & Michael B. Jordan...