Easy Living


Sturges began his career at Paramount in 1937 by writing this

Depression-era New York comedy about a wealthy industrialist (Edward

Arnold) known as The Bull of Broad Street, his unhappy son (Ray

Milland) who leaves home to work as a busboy at an automat, and working

girl Mary Smith (Jean Arthur), whose life changes after a

crazy-expensive fur coat chucked off the roof of a Manhattan apartment

building lands on her head. (She turns around, angrily, and demands,

“What’s the big deal anyway?” The turbaned dude behind her

responds, deadpan, “Kismet.” It’s that kind of screenplay.) Turns out

the coat is a powerful status symbol, and Mary soon learns that nothing

attracts wealth as powerfully as, well, more wealth. The no-frills slapstick of director Mitchell

Leisen (an accomplished art director and costume designer) is no substitute for the elegance that Sturges

would later develop helming his own material, but it’s fairly well-tuned for this sophisticated, breezily entertaining farce of

misunderstood identities. And Jean Arthur is terrific. I’m not sure how

good the new DVD looks, but it’s got to be better than my VHS copy, which

was recorded from Showtime almost 20 years ago. B+