Monday, January 23, 2012

The CMBA sponsored Comedy Classics Blogathon: Easy Living (1937)

When I found out our next Blogathon would be on Classic Comedies I was a bit nervous.  How can you snark on a film that's already funny?  Well, after much thought I decided to give it a try. This really is a fun film with Milland and Arthur at their best. I just wish we would have had more interaction between the two. The supporting cast was a riot, just what you want in a screwball comedy.  

My favorite comedy is "Bringing Up Baby" but I couldn't bring myself to snark on it. Although Easy Living is a very good film that I hope everyone has seen. If not, there really aren't any spoilers here but plenty of snark so please forgive me.  

Jean Arthur as Mary Smith
Ray Milland as John Ball Jr.
Edward Arnold as J.B. Ball
Luis Alberni as Louis Louis
Mary Nash as Jenny Ball
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Screenplay by Preston Sturges

We open to a large mansion and lots of staff with strategically placed ladders.

 This Park Ave. mansion belongs to J.B. Ball who's super rich and grouchy. (What kids today would call a 1%er) Let's see your tax returns Mr.!

And uncoordinated apparently. Or the staff has had enough of this turnip throwing his weight around.

No, you don't look guilty at all. I bet that picnic basket is full of silverware.

By the time he reached the bottom step the maid was on her way to sad city.

Things move fast on Park Ave. and if you thought he had a sense of humor, just look at how he described that poor maid.

It's time for breakfast with Richie Rich Jr.  If you look closely, he's on the right behind the tower of silver. This one is clueless and spoiled. He's charged a foreign sports car to daddies account. 

They're all arguing over butter vs lard and finding this snot a job.  Just look at the collar. Who dresses like that for breakfast? The 1%, that's who.

It's all so confusing on Park Avenue. They're still fighting about butter vs lard and by judging the butler I'm guessing he's on team lard.  

More bad news! Mama Ball has been out shopping! (Hide your eyes OWS protesters)

OH, look! She's wearing a fur trimmed robe while rubbing rose water on her precious legs...and who said the idle rich weren't creating jobs?

She's hidden the Sable in the closet in plain sight. (PETA just passed out!) 

This one can't keep his balance.  Should they even be fighting over using butter or maybe a substitute?

With a head start, Mama Ball has managed to get away with the sable.  Barely noticing the vines growing up the wall.  

 Apparently she's found a seldom used hallway where the staff is growing hemlock. 

 They both realize they ran up two flights of stairs when there's a perfectly good elevator.  But back to the sable....(obviously never having set foot in a kitchen, they don't know the difference between thyme and hemlock.)  Revenge of the staff can move forward!

 The sable get's tossed on a bus, landing on the luckiest and dumbest girl in Manhattan. 

 The lucky girl gets off the bus to find the owner.. Not realizing that when dead animals land on your head you keep it movin.  (I read that in National Geographic, Issue 157)

 Richie Rich refuses to take it back and before you know it these two manage to confuse themselves.  Her broken hat has everyone in a trance. 

The only logical thing to do is hop in a limo with a perfect stranger and your new coat.  Dating on Park Avenue sure is easy.  Well it could be dating but this is all so confusing that we might be witnessing an abduction. 

Ditzy tries to explain the percentage paid back on a loan on 100 dollar coats which ends up with me wanting to jump out of the car.  

 More arguing and non explaining...even this banker can't explain small loans to Ditzy so the only logical thing to do is....

 Go Shopping!  YAY for the wealthy! But you might want to get her a different hat. One that doesn't have enough fabric to choke her during one of her walks through Central Park.  

 She's happy and he's acting shady on the way out of the boutique. Just wait until Mama Ball get's wind of this! If she can find her way back down ten corridors and twelve rooms to that hemlock, you're toast.

 OH, I hope she doesn't hurt herself with that hat! Anyway, who's up for blackmail?

 Ditzy D. get's dropped off at The Boy's Company.  Gee, it's not even 10 a.m. and she's getting passed around like X-Lax at a model convention. 

 Apparently she works here with the elderly who appreciate a good fur. 

 Nosy Ned doesn't waste any time getting on the horn to spread some rumors.  Everything's so confusing that whoever he's talking to will never get it. Hang up the phone! I can't take it.

Ditzy D has to explain why she's late to work. Which goes something like  "Lard, rode a bus, dangerous hats, the wealthy are fat but nice, broken hats, I rode in a limo and did fancy math, late is okay sometimes if there's a loan but well, I need to sit down, Gee whiz Park Avenue is dangerous but lucky. I mean I think it's lucky and so are sable coats." 

What do you mean my hair is changing into the Shearer flip? And what does that have to do with fat math or sudden good luck on the poor people bus?  

Ditzy D's boss, not believing any of her story besides her changing hair, checks to see if a fur coat was sold.  

 You know what makes this scene fun? Losing your horrible job after catching a $68,000 fur coat.  PETA was right! Fur makes people feisty and troubled.  (It's the guilt!)

 For a Boys Company the ladies sure are unattractive.  Not that I'm judging what the rich go for.

We get the news that Mama Ball is headed to Florida where they don't wear fur coats but you can get some good hemlock to sooth your mind. (wink, wink)  

 Richie Rich has some of the most expensive cardboard backdrop that money can by. Manhattan is approaching two dimensional.

 If you weren't yet convinced of his wealth, the studio has thrown in the "Cleopatra" backgrounds to set you straight.  (That set designer has a sense of humor or a good stash)

 Louis, Louis has just left Richie Rich with the bad news that his loans are due on his fancy hotel. Nosy Ned greets him with some gossip.  (the short and coherent version is they now think Richie Rich is seeing Ditzy D)

 Let's check in with Ditzy D who's managed to find her sad apartment  and some spare change. 

 She finds a note from the landlord who is either kiding, riding or a bad speller. (That's idiot speak for Pay Your Rent!) They've got to be related.

 Even the piggy bank looks sad and over it in this joint. 

 The pig get's it with a shoe! I can't say he didn't deserve it with that attitude but Ditzy finds a telegram. 

 Louis has plans at Hotel Louis...P.S. Bring your brain so I don't have to keep shilling for the man.  

Louis, the smooth operator says "You look exactly like I thought you would but 100 times better." Huh?  Either he was expecting Richie Rich's wife's twin sister or a garbage pail!

 Ditzy D (still trusting and as dumb as she was an hour ago) follows Louis, Louis to a large suite for a tour. I'm starting to understand where 'screwball comedies' got their name. This one is Janet from another planet! She needs a Chaperon and some boundaries.

 The ceramic busts are giving her the side eye and judgmental looks! Know your place ladies but stay alert in case this is a murder scene.

 This suite is Trump Tower tacky!  And Ditzy D doesn't have any money for rent but that's okay. Louis, Louis will rent it for a $1 a day.  No, I can't figure out why he's almost bankrupt either.  She'll take it! (Keep in mind that she didn't accept the coat, hat, a ride, the directions to Louis, Louis either. I don't think Jean Arthur realizes shes even in this film)

 Just look at that bathtub, fountain, tunnel to broken hearts fiasco.  I'm so jealous of the rich right now.

 We get a glimpse of the exercise room and how the Uber Wealthy stay so fit.  They vibrate their guts out on mechanical horses.

We get our second glimpse of how the wealthy stay fit. (I won't judge but at least I have eggs and a bottle of hot chili sauce for guests)

 D.D. finds her way down to the closest Automat without a map or being summoned so she's making progress.  It's like a canteen truck but for the wealthy.  

 And look who's working here. Richie Jr.  With double shifts he should be able to pay his father back by 1972.

 They've got a chocolate fountain set in marble! But she's broke so she better get creative or stand around for 5 seconds until someone offers her a steak, the Queen Mary and a Cartier watch. (She's got it, I just don't know what "It" is!)

 Just like clockwork (meaning the writers) she waits a few seconds for R.R Jr. to sidle up and offer her the world.  Okay, not the world but a hot pie at window 10.

 Hot pie for the clueless at window 10! (I had to stop and call up Goodwill to see if they have any sable coats...I got laughed at then hung up on...guess I'll go to work tomorrow) This film it making me do weird things out of jealousy.  

 R.R. Jr. is busted! And like anyone who helps out the needy he offers up an explanation.

 Which ends in fighting and a screen grab of Milland's backside.  Sometimes you should just run!  During the scuffle the lever to the food windows gets switched.  ('screwball' alert)

Over caffeinating the poor is always a bit risky unless you have a truckload of furs handy.

 This scene wasn't predictable at all!  

Richie Rich Jr. and his new girlfriend (she doesn't know it yet and guessing she never will!) manage to escape. He let's her know that he doesn't want to work twenty years just to end up standing behind a nut salad.  Well, good news! You worked 3 hours and ended up beside a nut salad. 

Never meeting a stranger that she doesn't trust, Ditzy D invites him up to her suite. (She wouldn't survive a week on Craigslist!)  This is her explaining the coat, lard, bus rides, sad pigs, Louis, Louis, dollar rent and how Columbus sailed to Cambodia on a wooden raft.  (Okay, not the last part but this clueless hottie zoned out at sad pigs.)

They try to figure out how the bathtub works which is pointless.  Just throw some coins in it and wait for the Taj Mahal to be delivered to your suite.  

Lacking brain cells but never giving in when they focus really hard, they manage to get the water to work.  These kids really should get married and go back and finish fifth grade!

 Either they've summoned a novice cross dresser or Nosy Ned is back to deliver more furs.  (Being mistaken for the mistress of Daddy Warbucks really does pay off) Now, if only they realized why they keep getting all this stuff. I'm sure this simpleton would be satisfied with a kitten and a yo-yo.

 Down in the lobby, Papa Ball has checked in after being left by his wife and son.  

Twenty yards of tulle and crazy exits the elevator just in time to greet Big Papa. It's all so confusing to Louis, Louis when they don't interact.  Ditzy has food on her mind.

 A reporter notices the two from afar so within an hour all of Manhattan will think something tawdry is going down at Hotel Louis.

 Ditzy D.: "Does this tulle make me look stupid?"  R. R. Jr.: "Only the last five yards of it!" 

 After eating everything on the hotel menu that was ordered up by Daddy Rich, they need a nap. (Just to clarify, Daddy Rich didn't know he was feeding his son who doesn't know Ditzy is there because Daddy Rich gave her a coat, which led to sad pigs, the dollar suite, fat dresses and the jobless rate in Manhattan going up 2% because of her) You're welcome!

 D.D.  "Are you sleepy?"  R.R. Jr.: "No, I just noticed the back of your hair. It's the Shearer flip!"  D.D. "NOOO! Wait..if I wave out the window I bet someone will show up with some rollers, a mobile salon and two ticket to The Follies Bergere."   R.R. Jr. "Isn't that in Las Vegas in 1992?"  D.D: "This is a screwball comedy...with a huge budget!"

 Time for things to get crazy!

 D.D. does her best to work phones. Obviously for her safety they need break away cords.

 She has a new car being delivered with two chauffeurs.  (Boy, mistresses were treated differently in those days. Now they just grow helmet hair and convince their husbands to run for President.)

Richie Jr. finds his way back to the suite with more gifts. Not once has he had a light bulb moment where he figures out none of this makes any sense. (Stay in school and know being middle class is okay kids!)

 Louis, Louis let's Papa Rich know that his old lady is on her way back from Florida after hearing the news of his affair. (He still has no idea who he's having an affair with. Well he's not actually having an affair nor is anyone else but...Oh, nevermind) 

D.D. tries to explain her situation using horses and chickens in a bizarre analogy. Richie Jr. just nods like he understands. He's just happy to have another day or two to figure out how the bathtub works.  

Thinking she's the mistress of the great J.B. Ball, a stockbroker shows up wanting stock tips. Would someone please sit this woman down and listen to her for a few minutes before she does something dangerous without knowing it? She's like one misunderstanding away from becoming the Ambassador of Leprechaunia.

Richie Jr. finds it all amusing and tells her to sell steel low...It's all funny when it's not your money.  (Guessing this is how Wall Street crashed in 1929.)  Rich jokesters!

Once the market goes into chaos, Richie Rich and a few other 1%er's gather to meltdown and figure out how to fix things by buying up a lot of steel.

He's losing money like mad and I bet they're on their way to repo his skyline.

In the meantime Ditzy Dee is getting the Pretty Woman treatment up in her suite except there are no thigh high boots or a john, when she gets a call that she has made $18,000 on her stock. (I'm sure with her own money she'll be more frugal.)

Down on Wall Street the floor is in total chaos as the rich lose their shirts. (You're welcome middle class!)

I was just sitting here thinking, if I had $18,000 I would get a couple of sheep dogs, some birds and a bowl of fish.  Guessing the dinosaur bones and the six person gondola are on back order.

 Mama Bell has shown up and boy is she aware of their situation.  Just look at that sad coat! She can only afford fur sleeves and a collar. Times are rough uptown.

 Realizing what a mess he's made, trust fund baby shows up to straighten things out.  Only, he doesn't know that everyone is having a freak out over his prank nor that he's been shacking up with the woman who's shut down Manhattan with a wink and a smile.   

 Ditzy D. and her dogs show up at the bank which causes people to fall down, scream and get all twisted up.  (Who wouldn't love this mess and offer her the world on borrowed silver?)

 Everyone does their best to figure out how all of this started in the first place which would take less time if we had a two hour sequel in braille. 

  I feel like Manhattan is closing in on me! (Nope! They're just repossessing the backdrop so stand away from the window.)  He gets the bright idea to call up the stockbroker with another tip. (Find a sofa, the genius is going to need a nap.)

 D.D.: "Hello, I've got two sheep dogs that I'll trade for Austria and a snow cone."  Daddy Rich: "Just tell them steel is selling HIGH!"  

Ditzy D. tells Prince Charming that she shouldn't have been a smarty when trying to explain how she got the coat."  Huh?  

Not getting to the bottom of anything with less than five minutes left, she takes off to Austria, not realizing she doesn't own it or a snow cone.  I have no idea what happened to the birds or fish but if we can get a wide shot I'm betting they're on top of a water tower or the taxi roof.  She's just adorable!

 Who summoned Eric Von Stroheim, who's obviously stolen Norma Desmond's car?  They're being chased by the cops. 

 Hey, how did those fish get up there?  

 I can't bear it! Here goes the coat.

 I guess when you're wealthy its less embarrassing to toss furs over the railing than return them.

 Just do yourself a favor and throw it in the trash then run to the closest PETA safe house.

These two look happy. Well, I think they're happy but who can tell. Find yourselves a safe place and don't talk to anyone! (Oh, on a side note, the Easy Living poster shows these two Rhodes Scholars in a passionate kiss but I didn't see them kiss even once! Perhaps they were under an avalanche of chocolate, behind a tower of silver or I was just distracted by that bathtub. For whatever reason, I feel a bit jipped!)

Thanks for joining me for my contribution to the Comedy Classics Blogathon.  If you haven't seen this film it's available in it's entirety on Youtube.  I give it a 9 out of 10 sheep dogs!

For a full list of the films being reviewed by our fellow members just click HERE.  There are some great reviews up already, with more to come all week. So please stop by and give everyone your support.

See you in the funny papers,


  1. Loved reading this funny synopsis! My favorite line (and there were many): "The pig get's it with a shoe! I can't say he didn't deserve it with that attitude but Ditzy finds a telegram." I also liked your mistress comment.

    I love Easy Living--it is LOL funny! Jean Arthus is great and so is Eddie Arnold. I love the Automat scene.

    1. Thanks so much Kim!
      I came so close to going with a serious review since Easy Living is one of the funniest films during the late 30's. It's hard to attempt putting words in their mouths when everything about it is hysterical. Perfectly cast! I love Milland in comedies, wish he would have hammed it up even more.

      The Automat scene was so funny, I agree! Everyone falling on all that milk and chocolate.

  2. Page - I don't know which is funnier - your comments or the film itself. A great entry!

    1. FlickChick,
      That's what I was going for! I guess my job is done here. Ha Ha
      It really is a funny film. Crazy fun which is the best kind.


  3. Folks should hire you for DVD commentaries. Fun stuff!

    1. CW,
      Now that would be a fun job! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Let me just say, your captioned journey through this movie adds a whole new layer of screwiness to an already-screwy picture. I love it when you indulge us with these posts!

    On the topic of the movie, this is one of my favorite Jean Arthur performances. And oh, that voice--one of the most memorable in Hollywood history. Not only did the actresses have faces then (thanks, Norma Desmond), but they had voices, too. Jean's squeak, Katharine Hepburn's nasal inflections, Bette Davis' determined tone, even Marilyn Monroe's breathy sex-kitten vocals--how many modern-day actresses' voices are as memorable as these?

    1. Thanks so much Brandie! I'm glad you liked my take on such a funny film.

      I certainly know what you mean about Arthur's voice. You would never imagine it coming from that adorable little thing. Hollywood gave us some amazingly unique stars.

  5. Page, a very funny look at a very funny movie. Love that bathtub. Wow. Put me down as another fan of the automat scene. There's also a funny automat scene in "That Touch of Mink" with Gig Young. I have vague memories of automats when I would visit my dad at his office in Chicago in the 1960s. I was fascinated by them as a kid.

    Hopefully your post will encourage more people to seek out this true gem of 1930s comedy.

    1. Kevin,
      I'm thrilled I could give you a good laugh with my take on this gem. I do hope anyone who's not seen it will give it a chance. Top notch comedy.

      The Automat scene then Louis on that crazy exercise horse was a lot of fun. I wasn't around for Automats but my aunt drove a canteen truck when we were kids which we loved since she would come by in it and let us have sandwiches and other goodies from it.


  6. Paige ~ a perfect spoof of one of my favorite Mitchell Leisen comedies; Jean Arthur and Ray Milland (otherwise known as the swoonable one) made a wonderful screwball couple. I agree with you that Milland had a real feeling for comedy, and he wasn’t afraid to make himself look like a fool.

    Your captions are inspired, as always, and the screen shot of Milland’s bum is hilarious, but I just want to relish a few of my favorite lines: “He let's her know that he doesn't want to work twenty years just to end up standing behind a nut salad. Well, good news! You worked 3 hours and ended up beside a nut salad.” “These kids really should get married and go back and finish fifth grade!” “Ditzy D.: ‘Does this tulle make me look stupid?’ R. R. Jr.: ‘Only the last five yards of it!’”

    I actually love this scene, with Jean and Ray lying side-by-side and her peeking through the sheer material. Thanks for reminding why I feel in love with classic films, and why I’m going nuts because I can’t see this film at least once a year.

    1. Whistling Gyspy,
      I'm so glad you liked my take on this film since you're such a fan of it like me. Done with love, I assure you. : )

      Every time I see Ray in films not even this funny I wish he had been offered more screwball comedies. He's got that certain something like Grant and Stewart had.

      Enjoying this Blogathon so far. So many great reviews. Thanks for the lovely comments.

  7. Page, I love your selection of pics, especially: Jean Arthur surrounded by two big pups; the exercise room; the various quizzical Jean Arthur looks (didn't realize she did it so often!); and the fur-covered Ms. Arthur. By the way, I've never seen the movie!

    1. Thanks Rick!
      Knowing how much you love Bringing Up Baby I really think you would like this one.
      Also, thanks for putting another wonderful Blogathon together for us! This was a fun topic.

  8. Page, your hilarious pictorials have been working wonders for my weight-loss efforts, because I can't eat and read your witty bon mots with with my mouth full, lest I choke whilst laughing helplessly! :-) Your take on EASY LIVING (EL) had me laughing out loud (no doubt Vinnie is lurking about trying to record me roaring with laughter, that sweet little sneaky-puss). I love Preston Sturges' films anyway, so your MST3K-style quips only make EL even funnier! Your topical OWS gags had me LOL, too, as did your bits about "Team Lard", hemlock, and "turnip." Funny as your pictorial version is, you now have me interested in seeing the film itself. BRAVA, Page, BRAVA!

    1. Dorian,
      You're so sweet! I know a photo review is a success if it makes you 'choke laugh' but be careful! Ha Ha

      I hope you find time to see EL..It really is a fun film.
      Thanks for you support of crazy posts

  9. I'm still laughing at your recap of "Easy Living." It's been years since I've seen it, but why watch it again when it won't compare to your commentary? :)

    1. CFB,
      If you do run across this film again and even one of my wacky captions crossed your mind I'll be happy.

  10. MST3K and Rifftrax have nothing on you.

    1. Rich,
      I'm gonna take that as a compliment! Ha Ha
      I had to look up Rifftrax...I had never heard of it but it does look interesting.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Page, what a delight this movie is: the great Preston Sturges screenplay with money and sex at its heart as so often is the case with his wonderful scripts, the incomparable Arthur in one of her very best performances (right up there with "The More the Merrier"), my favorite performance by the blustery Edward Arnold. As others have mentioned, the automat sequence is one that once seen will never be forgotten. A great choice for the blogathon, a movie too often neglected because of all the classic screwball comedies that came out about the same time.

    1. R. D.,
      I'm really glad I chose this film too! It seems to have quite a few fans. It's always great to hear which scenes are memorable to Classic film buffs. (We like melees!) Ha Ha Nothing wrong with a little fun chaos.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  12. Page, I don't know which I love more.. your review or the movie.. Your review had everything, including a "pawsome pet picture" ..

    1. Thanks Dawn!
      Those furry sheep dogs with Jean were adorable.
      Glad you enjoyed my take on EL.

  13. Page, all I can say is incredible ... The queen of snark strikes again ... Great post!

    1. Awwww Thanks Dave! This was a lot of fun to do.

  14. Page,

    This is a wonderful movie. I love quirky Jean Arthur, and with a screenplay by Preston Sturges you can't go wrong. I am old enough to remember the Automat's when I lived in NYC. As a kid they were fun, depositing nickels into the slot and bam, there's the food ! Edward Arnold, one of the great character actors is also a delight. You did a great job here with the pics and hilarious captions.


    1. Thanks John,
      I'm glad to see Easy Living has so many fans. Jean really was at her best in comedies and I agree about Edward Arnold being one of our great character actors. I adore Lewis Stone and Charles Ruggles too.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with an actual NYC Automat. How fun they must have been for kids. : )

  15. Another snark triumph, Page! I haven't seen it, but like Classicfilmboy, I feel like I've seen it in the funniest possible way. My favorite line of your hilarious comments is "...getting passed around like X-Lax at a model convention." That really made me spit my coffee on a brand clean robe!

    1. Becks,
      This really is a good screwball comedy. Jean Arthur was great. Glad you are still getting a good laugh from my photo reviews. Laughter really is the best medicine. : )
      Happy to have you back. You've been missed.