Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Film Review: Easy Living (1937)

TCM: When a working girl tries to return a lost fur coat, she gets caught up in a wealthy family's battles.

     Why can't my life be more like the movies? I mean, I'd love for a mink coat to fall down on my head and then meet Ray Milland. In fact, I wouldn't care too much for the coat, but the coat would get me the man, and Ray Milland . . . Yeah, I don't have to say much more than his name for me to get really excited.
     This was my first film that I saw with Ray in it, but to be truthful, I watched it for Jean Arthur, and I really only took enough notice in his role to take note that he was incredibly adorable and that Jean was lucky. The rest of the time I focused my complete attention on all of Jean's amazing-ness.
     It was upon a second viewing of this film that I focused my attention to other people besides Jean, and I liked what I saw when it came to this man named Ray Milland with an adorable accent that I just couldn't quite place. As I do with everyone that piques my interest, I do a little research on him. I found out that that accent of his was Welsh, he had a prolific career in Hollywood (though it appeared that toward the latter he took what came May), and that of course I would have to watch more of his films.
Edward Arnold and Jean Arthur.
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     And watched I have, but for now, we're sticking to this delightful gem of a screwball comedy, Easy Living.
     Honestly, I would be really hard pressed to think of a better cast that could have done this film. As hard as it may be to believe for all of you that think nothing in this world is perfect--Easy Living is just that. Perfect. Jean Arthur. Ray Milland. Edward Arnold. Need I say more?
     Edward Arnold is one of my favorite big tough guys that talked real loud and acted real mean, but really has a heart of gold--even if you have to dig for a little bit to find it. In Easy Living, he plays J.B. Ball, the third richest banker in the good ol' U.S., and he's got the wife that, taking advantage of her husband's wealth, likes to spend it.
John Ball, Jr.--the working man.
Photo Courtesy of
     Receiving the latest bill informing him of his wife's latest extra-vagant spending spree, poor J.B. has had enough, and throwing the coat outside the window, it just happens to topple down on poor Mary Smith whom happens to be, of course, Jean Arthur. When J.B. comes out of his apartment, happy go lucky because his wife no longer has the coat, she tries to give it back to him, but he tells her to keep it. Mary, however, becomes upset because when the coat toppled down on her, it ruined her hat, and she's missed her bus and has no way to get to work. By offering to buy her a new hat and a ride to work for the magazine, 'The Boy's Constant Companion', where all the spinsterish women see her expensive coat, she is mistaken to be his mistress and is promptly fired . . . which leads Mary broke.
Psst! I see you!
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     With her last dime, she goes to an automat and unwittingly meets John Ball, Jr., who has left home to prove to his father that he can make it out on his own and doesn't need his money. This action was quite common in the films of the yesteryear. It was meant as a way for the "common" people of the time to connect with the "upper" class people. It was a way for the upper class people to say, "Hey, you and I? We're both the same. We could be best friends . . ."
     As I'm learning only Ray can be, he plays John Jr., as a most charming and funny and witty and, in the case of Ms. Mary Smith, quite smitten, son of the third richest banker in America.
     When John Jr., first sees Mary, he can't believe that she's eating in an automat (the $58,000 fur coat might having something to do with that, but I'm just guessing on that), but when she insists that she's got nothing but a dime to her name, he concocts this brilliant plan of giving her some food and when he gets paid, gives the money back to the automat.
John and Mary.
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     What could possibly go wrong?
     After a wild food fight with everybody fighting tooth and nail to get free food, John is fired and, refusing to return home and admit defeat to his father, has no place to go. Well, as aforementioned, Mary is believed to be J.B.'s mistress, and because of this has been given a room in an extremely expensive hotel by the proprietor in hopes that by taking extra nice care of J.B.'s mistress, she'll tell him and J.B. will start coming to his relatively empty hotel. So, while she has an expensive hotel suite, but no money, she offers John to stay with her.
     Again, this adds to John's confusion, but as most men probably would in his position, he just rolls right along with everything.
I would LOVE to take a nice hot bath in that . . . pool?
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     Mary takes John back to her hotel suite, and through the course of the night, they fall in love. It's under-standable. I mean, how can Jean/Mary not fall in love with Ray/John and how could Ray/John not fall in love with Jean/Mary? It can't be done. They're too perfect.
     The film continues on with ensuing slapstick comedy and misunderstandings as only Jean and Ray and Edward Arnold could pull off. It's a film that I would definitely recommend to anyone and everyone if they are in the need for a good laugh and a little loving; I give it a 3/4 stars.
Ray and Jean.
Photo Courtesy of
   If this is the first Ray Milland film that one might see, I hope that he or she understands that Ray was a brilliant actor, and that he just wasn't someone who did cute romantic comedies. Ray could really act, and he was quite brilliant (as I found out, as everyone does, when I watched The Lost Weekend). Ray was an understated and underestimated actor who, despite having won an Oscar and being some fantastic films, never got his dues which is a shame. And by saying that I hope that with my reviews of the five films that I consider Ray's essentials, if a) you haven't discovered him, you'll grow to love him, b) if you know him, but haven't realized just how magnificent he was, you'll begin to, and c) if you already love him, you'll grow to love him more.


Anonymous said...

Ray Milland was such a revelation for me in this film because I'd only seen him in "Dial M For Murder" and had no idea he could be so charming, handsome and witty.

KimWilson said...

Easy Living is one the best screwball comedies ever. Jean Arthur is the poster-girl for the genre--she did everything right. Her interactions with Coburn are priceless. And, of course, the best scene is the automat melee. Nice review.

silverscreenings said...

"Why can't life my life be more like the movies?" That, my friend, is a VERY good question, one I`ve often asked myself.

I love the movie Easy Living, and your review has really done it justice. Nice work!