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Arts & Culture

Screwball Classic 'The Lady Eve' Screens At MOPA

Charles Coburn and Barbara Stanwyck are a father and daughter who disagree on how to con the gullible Henry Fonda in Preston Sturges classic screwball comedy, "The Lady Eve."
Paramount Pictures
Charles Coburn and Barbara Stanwyck are a father and daughter who disagree on how to con the gullible Henry Fonda in Preston Sturges classic screwball comedy, "The Lady Eve."

Magician Jamy Ian Swiss will provide sleight of hand and insights into pulling a con

Screwball Classic 'The Lady Eve' Screens At MOPA
The Preston Sturges classic screwball comedy "The Lady Eve" screens Friday at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. Special guest Jamy Ian Swiss will be on hand to offer close-up magic as well as to discuss the art of the con.

Companion viewing

"The Great McGinty" (1940)

"Palm Beach Story" (1941)

"Sullivan's Travels" (1942)

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The Preston Sturges classic screwball comedy "The Lady Eve" screens Friday at the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park. Special guest Jamy Ian Swiss will be on hand to offer close-up magic as well as to discuss the art of the con.

Sturges is an underappreciated filmmaker and a fascinating personality. His mother was best friends with dancer Isadora Duncan, and she often dragged her son to museums and other cultural events. She also dressed him in a Greek tunic to signify her devotion to the arts.

All this led to Sturges having a disdain for pretension and high culture. It also helped develop his particular brand of comedy that was witty, fast-paced and willing to mock anything that even remotely smacked of pretension.

He was the first person to receive a writer-director credit in Hollywood for "The Great McGinty," a savagely funny political comedy. He had a run of brilliant comedies in the 1940s and none sizzled with more wit and sensuality than "The Lady Eve" (1941). Barbara Stanwyck is the daughter of a card shark about to pull a con on a gullible Henry Fonda.

Fairly smacking his lips in anticipation, Charles Coburn's character says, "I could take this boy with a deck of visiting cards." Only problem is he does not take into account that his daughter is falling in love with the goofy heir to an ale empire.

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But as in most Sturges comedies, things get twisted around so many times it makes a pretzel look straight and Stanwyck gets to display her wicked sense of confidence game revenge.

To help guide you through the art of this con will be magician Jamy Ian Swiss, "The Honest Liar." He’ll perform sleight-of-hand, close-up magic as well as provide insights into the skills and psychology needed to run a scam.

But "The Lady Eve" remains an honest gem and Stanwyck dominates the screen with her smart, funny, sexy performance. Here's the trailer:

The Lady Eve Trailer

There is a meetup that I am hosting for the film that begins at 6:30 p.m. with dinner at the Friday food trucks in front of MOPA. Swiss will perform at 7:30 p.m. inside MOPA and the film will screen at 8 p.m. The film is being presented by The Film Geeks San Diego of which I am one of the volunteer programmers.

Tickets are available online, $5 for MOPA members and $10 for non-members.