Friday, August 09, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Easy Living (1937) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The evergreen screwball comedy EASY LIVING (1937) was just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

EASY LIVING is one of a pair of films starring Jean Arthur which Kino Lorber is releasing this summer. Last week also saw the release of the Billy Wilder comedy A FOREIGN AFFAIR (1948), costarring John Lund and Marlene Dietrich. I'll be reviewing that here in the near future.

Just before I started watching the EASY LIVING Blu-ray I told my husband "I don't think I could ever watch this one too many times!" It's one of my all-time favorite comedies, with top-of-the-line acting, direction, script (Preston Sturges!), costumes, and sets. Perfection in every way.

I first reviewed the movie here after a viewing on VHS over a decade ago, so it was a real treat to jump from that all the way up to Blu-ray! I was also fortunate to see the movie on 35mm in UCLA's marvelous 2012 series celebrating director Mitchell Leisen, as well as on several other occasions.

Jean Arthur stars as wide-eyed, wondering Mary Smith, who is headed to work one morning atop a double-decker New York City bus when a fur coat drops onto her head from the heavens above. The turbaned man reading in the row behind her exclaims "Kismet!" And indeed it is.

Mary gets off the bus to try to return the coat and meets up with "the Bull of Broad Street," wealthy banker J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold). J.B., tired of his wife's (Mary Nash) unappreciative overspending, had tossed the coat from his rooftop and invites Mary to keep it. He also takes her to purchase a hat to replace the one ruined when the coat fell on it.

An employee (Franklin Pangborn) at the millinery assumes Mary and J.B. have, ahem, a relationship, and spreads the word to hotel owner Louis (Luis Alberni), whose luxury hotel is going to be foreclosed on by J.B. Louis invites Mary, who has just lost her job (it's a long story), to live in the hotel, thinking it will drum up business and help protect it from being closed down if J.B.'s lady friend is living there. Innocent Mary believes she's simply helping the hotel look "lived in" by living there and turning lights on and off!

Meanwhile Mary has met the charming Johnny (Ray Milland), who has a job at the Automat. Unknown to Mary, he is J.B.'s son who is trying to make his own way in the world. Kismet, indeed!

I just can't say enough good things about how much fun this classic film is. Every time I think of Mary whispering "Golly!" I smile.

The movie is a wonderland of great Hollywood character faces. In addition to those named above, the movie features William Demarest, Esther Dale, Stanley Andrews, Nora Cecil, and Harlan Briggs. Robert Greig steals every scene he's in as the Ball family butler.

Take a close look at the tall male office employee running around in the chaos of the final scenes; it's Dennis O'Keefe in another of his bit roles before hitting it big. And the young lady who has a coat dropped on her in the final scenes? Marsha Hunt! Lee Bowman's said to be a motorcycle cop but I forgot to watch for him.

The Art Deco sets are pure eye candy -- watch for the hotel bathtub! -- and the Automat sequence is a classic, with all the food windows flying open and an ensuing brawl. Every time I see a movie with an Automat scene I wish it still existed so I could eat there.

The movie was shot in black and white by future director Ted Tetzlaff. Sturges' script was based on a story by Vera Caspary, author of the novel LAURA. Costumes were designed by the great Travis Banton. The running time is 88 minutes.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray includes a commentary track by Kat Ellinger, which I plan to enjoy soon, and trailers for four additional films available from Kino Lorber.

Highly recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Lee R said...

Like you, the first time I saw this movie (back in the '80's(?, maybe '70s) I became an instant fan of Jean Arthur. When you said you love it whenever you hear Jean say "Golly" it brought back instant favorite moments of mine with Jean and her marvelous cracking voice. I also bought (and still have) the MCA VHS tape of this classic movie, and though I haven't seen the VHS version in a while I remember it looking quite good and clear. I have it on DVD now and you've given me a great idea of what to watch again, it's been too long since I've seen this, one of my favorite movies too. I don’t have blu-ray & the thought of re-buying all my movie over again in yet another format is just too horrifying . I go back to beta tapes, then dragged to VHS then to laser disc finally to DVD. That’s it for me. I cry uncle on all the ever changing formats when that old beta tape looked just fine to me to begin with. How many copies of the same movie is enough?

8:40 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Great review. Can’t wait to see it again. Jean Arthur is magic!

12:23 AM  
Anonymous James McKay said...

A brilliant film with the perfect ingredients.

9:58 AM  

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