“The bull of broad street... with a girl... in the sable-est sable coat they ever sabled!”
Stories dealing with mistaken identities or ones where there is a mix up with people knowing each other usually make me mad to absolutely no end. For example the type of plot that Top Hat used, that drove me up a wall! I did not really know the plot to Easy Living before I started it I honestly just wanted to see a Jean Arthur film and this was one of them that I was able to find. When I caught on to the plot I cringed a bit but as the film progressed I found myself laughing with just about every scene.
JB Ball is known as “The Bull of Broad Street.” He is a powerful wealthy banker and stockbroker with an extremely short temper. JB lives in a beautiful apartment on Fifth Avenue with his wife John Jr. (Ray Milland) and his wife. JB if furious one morning at both his wife and son. John traded in his new car that had not been paid off yet for a cheap foreign car and his wife bought a very expensive fur coat she has several already. In a fit he takes the fur coat and throws it down into the street where it lands on Mary Smith (Arthur). She was riding on the top of the double decker bus when the coat just fell down on her head. Mary is completely shocked. She gets off the bus and begins going from house to house asking if any of the owners lost their fur coat. JB runs into Mary and tells her she can have the coat. Mary declines the offer at first but then accepts. Then she gets JB to buy her a new hat since her feather broke on hers.
Mary goes to work in her new fur coat and brand new hat. She works for a boy’s magazine with a curmudgeon old lady and an old man boss. For some reason they have a problem with Mary wearing the fur and the hat and they fire her. JB has his own problems at work that morning. A man named Louis Louis has a meeting with him. Louis is behind on all three mortgages he took out for his hotel and JB tells him he will foreclose on the hotel. Louis begs for six weeks but JB only gives him one. When Louis gets back to the hotel the milliner who sold JB Mary’s hat tells him that The Bull was in his shop with a younger woman. Louis uses this opportunity to blackmail JB and use Mary to get to JB to tell him what a nice hotel he is running. Louis has Mary brought over to the hotel and he gives her the biggest suite he has with multiple waiting rooms, a huge bathtub, a gym and a kitchen. Their lines of thought and communication are completely different Louis believes he is trying to drive him crazy talking in code about JB and making a fool of him when she says her rent is seven dollars and she is just completely overwhelmed at what is happening.
That night Mary goes to an automat for dinner since the refrigerator at the hotel is completely empty. There she meets John who has gotten a job of his own as a bus boy. He sees Mary does not have a lot of money so he tries to help her out by opening the doors where the food is served. Unfortunately security sees what John is doing and the two men get into a huge brawl. John makes it out and walks back to the hotel with Mary. They hit it off real nicely and of course Mary does not know that John is JB’s son. The following morning a man thinking Mary is with JB asks if she could ask JB about whether steel is going up or down. Thinking the man means John she asks him and he gives a childish answer on how his father said the stocks are like the weather or something to that extent and tells her to say down.
The whole rest of the day for JB is a disaster as he buys stock and then gets into trouble when he has no money. Meanwhile the man who came to the door made Mary eighteen thousand dollars! The first thing she does is buy two big shaggy dogs. At this time she learns the truth from Louis that he thought she was with JB and slaps him in the face. She runs to JB’s office and he finds out about all the mess as well. All of New York City has heard about their supposed affair but them.
Everything works out well in the end and Mary winds up with John.
When I first saw Jean Arthur in Adventure in Manhattan a few months ago I was not impressed with her but I was willing to give her another try. I am glad that I was willing to do because I really liked her and her character in the film. Arthur was perfect and this time her voice did not get on my nerves. I cracked up towards the end when she gets her dogs especially when she goes to JB’s office with them and she cannot get in so she tells her dogs to run when she says run and they practically drag her towards the door. Arthur was ridiculously adorable in a scene in the beginning where she has to break her piggy bank Wilford for some change, she does not want the poor thing to see what she is about to do so she puts a blind fold around his eyes haha. Ray Milland was a riot. I am so used to him as the oily Tony Wendice in Dial M For Murder. I loved seeing him all frazzled and roughed up and talking a mile a minute. Edward Arnold as JB was fantastic. I seriously thought the guy was going to burst a blood vessel he really got into playing the part of a man who likes to yell!
I think I almost went into shock seeing that the screenplay written by screwball comedy director Preston Sturges was based off a story by Vera Caspary. I am sure if you are a film nut like me you have heard of the name and if you are awesome you will know that Caspary wrote the novel Laura which the film with Gene Tierney in the lead was based off of. I was shocked because Laura is such a dark story compared to Easy Living. Apparently, though, all that was kept from Caspary’s story for this film was the mink coat.
Easy Living is a really funny film that I would have no problem sitting through again. Heck I may even show some of my friends! I was very surprised the whole situation/story did not bother me since it is a plot I usually want to hit my head against the wall with. I honestly think Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, and Ray Milland made it easy since they were all so good in their parts. Easy Living is a great screwball comedy to see.