The Lady Eve is fun. After seeing Stanwyck in a variety of Femme Fatale roles, it’s highly enjoyable to see her back at her comic roots. And, boy does she shine here as the daughter of a con-artist who is trying to score one big grift. Henry Fonda is perfectly befuddled as her prey…I’ve never really seen Fonda in a comic role like this before and I haven’t seen him since in anything that can come close to topping this. Both actors are simply brilliant in this one. Basically, Fonda plays a wealthy, naive young man on a cruise heading up the Amazon so study his love of snakes. Enter Stanwyck and her father (played by the always-great Charles Coburn) to try and “lure” Fonda into a trap to milk him out of some of his millions. Classic Preston Sturges at his finest!

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One man stands alone against 11 others at the beginning of this movie. Henry Fonda plays the only juror who buys the defendant’s version of events and his innocence. Little by little, Fonda convinces the other jurors of the defendant’s lack of guilt and by the end of the movie, the tables have completely changed. This is the type of film that you know going into it how it just has to turn out. But, you watch it anyway…mesmerized by the performances and amount of sheer power coming through on the screen. Fonda was never better as this lone man, plodding his case among his peers, trying everything he can before he is forced to give up and cave in to pressure. Also features some great actors in their early roles, such as Jack Warden and Jack Klugman. Directed by Sidney Lumet, who became synonymous with New York City and crime/legal dramas after this film’s success.

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The “wrong man” (or “wronged”) man has always been a running theme in Alfred Hitchcock’s films. From 1935’s classic The 39 Steps right up to Frenzy in 1972, Hitchcock had been thrilling audiences as they follow along a story about a man accused of something he didn’t do. In 1956, Hitchcock made the ultimate “wronged man” movie…giving it a very appropriate title and look. The look was that of a documentary…black and white (but that was still pretty common in the mid-50s), dark, humorless (which none of Hitchcock’s prior films had been), cameo-less (no Hitchcock peeking around a corner in this one), and lacking the fast-pacing of most of Hitchcock’s films up to that point. The director chooses everyman Henry Fonda to play his hero—the “wrong man—this time around. Fonda is perfect in this role since he’s adapt at morphing into any type of persona. Cary Grant, a Hitchcock regular, would have been way to sleek for this role. Jimmy Stewart, even, would have lacked the ability to enter the character with his tall, imposing stance. Fonda has the right look and build to play someone that just might look like the other guy…someone who is the ideal husband and father but could also look slightly sinister in the right light. The film starts off by showing Fonda’s routine…work as a musician in a nightclub until early morning then home where wife (also perfectly played by Vera Miles) is already sleeping…discussion with wife about money problems in morning…etc. Once Fonda finds himself in a mistaken identity mess when he is spotted in an insurance office as a former robber and arrested, Hitchcock mixes the plot with quite a bit of police procedures which offer insight into not only what criminals go through but also how law enforcement officers handle the daily grind. If you want to watch the quintessential Hitchcock film, rent North by Northwest, another “wronged” man film and much more typical of The Master of Suspense’s technique. If you want to watch a good film where Hitchcock experimented with the art of cinema and his own style, watch this one!

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