Review: Fast Talking Dames and the Lady Eve

Fast-Talking Dames (2001), a book by Maria DiBattista examines women film stars who were expected to be brainy and to be good speakers as well. An example of such a woman can be found in the film The Lady Eve (1941). The film is a comedy in which a smart con-woman, Jean, played by Barbara Stanwyck seeks to fleece an heir (Pike), played by Henry Fonda, off his fortune. However, things do not go as planned and she falls in love with him. She is soon discovered and she changes her identity to continue her mission and is especially vengeful after being scorned. Ultimately, they both fall in love after a lot of farce. Comedies at the time challenged values and were willing to parody themselves. These comedies examined social classes as can be seen in The Lady Eve- it challenges the social classification with the romantic engagement of Jean and Pike. This can be seen from the fact that the con artists look more at ease with their money than those who are actually rich. They are also smatter than their victims since they manipulate them at will.

The superiority of Jean’s intelligence over Pike is shown by her language use. She cracks jokes that he does not understand and she dupes him into believing she is another woman. In addition, she predicts his reactions and is observant as can be seen in her commentary about some women who try to take Pike’s attention as he reads. The film represents a period in American cinema when women were supposed to deliver fast, witty, dialogue as opposed to latter film stars who only showed a beautiful face and little intelligence onscreen. The films may have represented a new consciousness into the fact that women could be smart or smatter than men. These films are a true indicator that art imitates life and that it could be used to portray and call to attention both the good and the bad changes occurring in society.


Sturges, P. (Director), Jones, P., DeSylva, B. G. (Producers) (1941). The Lady Eve [Film]. Los Angeles: Paramount Pictures.

DiBattista, M. (May 1, 2001). Fast-Talking Dames (1st Ed.). USA; Yale University Press.



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