Easy Living (film)

Easy Living (film)

name = Easy Living

image_size = 215px
caption = title card
writer = Vera Caspary "(story)"
Preston Sturges
starring = Jean Arthur
Edward Arnold
Ray Milland
director = Mitchell Leisen
producer = Arthur Hornblow
music = Ralph Rainger
Leo Robin
F. Hollaender
Gordon Jenkins
Milan Roder
Gregory Stone
Victor Young
cinematography = Ted Tetzlaff
editing = Doane Harrison
distributor = Paramount Pictures
released = 7 July fy|1937
runtime = 88 minutes
language = English
country = FilmUS
budget =
gross =
imdb_id = 0028816 |

"Easy Living" (fy|1937) is a screwball comedy film, directed by Mitchell Leisen, written by Preston Sturges from a story by Vera Caspary, and starring Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, and Ray Milland. Many of the supporting players (William Demerest, Franklin Pangborn, Luis Alberni, Robert Greig, Olaf Hytten, and Arthur Hoyt) became a major part of Sturges' regular stock company of character actors in his subsequent films.

Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin composed the song "Easy Living" for the film, and it has since become a jazz standard, made famous by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and many other jazz singers. [cite web|url= http://www.jazzstandards.com/compositions-0/easyliving.htm|date= c. 2005|accessdate= 2008-01-27| title= "Easy Living"|work= JazzStandards.com]

The fy|1949 film "Easy Living" starring Victor Mature is not related.


J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold), the third richest banker in America, becomes infuriated after learning that his wife Jenny (Mary Nash) had bought a $58,000 fur coat without his knowledge. He throws it off his New York City penthouse. It lands on Mary Smith (Jean Arthur) while she is riding to work on a double-decker bus. When she tries to return it, he tells her to keep it (without informing her how valuable it is). He also buys her an expensive new hat to replace the one damaged in the incident, causing her to be mistaken for his mistress. When she shows up for work, her straitlaced boss suspects her of behaving improperly to get a coat she obviously cannot afford and fires her to protect the reputation of the "Boy's Constant Companion", the magazine he publishes.

Mary begins receiving offers from people eager to cash in on her notoriety. One firm gives her an expensive sixteen-cylinder car, and hotel owner Mr. Louis Louis (Luis Alberni) installs her in a luxury suite, hoping that this will deter Ball from foreclosing on his failing establishment.

When Mary goes to an automat for a meal, she meets John Ball Jr. (Ray Milland), J.B.'s son. He is determined to make it on his own and is working anonymously at the restaurant. However, he is fired for giving Mary free food. When Mary finds out he has no place to stay, she invites him to share her enormous suite while he looks for a new job. They quickly fall in love. Meanwhile, as time goes on, her supposed connection to J.B has satirically disastrous consequences for the stock market. Stockbroker E.F. Hulgar (Andrew Tombes) asks her for inside information about steel from Mr. Ball. The only Ball the confused Mary knows is John Jr., so she queries him. He jokingly tells her it is going down and she passes it along to Hulgar. As a result, everybody begins selling, just as J.B. starts buying, causing J.B.'s company to totter on the brink of bankruptcy. When Mary, John, and J.B. finally get together and figure out what is going on, John comes up with a bright solution - getting Mary to tell Hulgar that J.B. has cornered the market. Prices shoot up, rescuing the beleaguered financier.

The delighted father gives his son a job. John then offers Mary a job too: fixing his breakfast every day as his wife.


*Jean Arthur as Mary Smith
*Edward Arnold as J.B. Ball
*Ray Milland as John Ball Jr.
*Luis Alberni as Mr. Louis Louis
*Mary Nash as Mrs. Jenny Ball
*Franklin Pangborn as Van Buren (the hat shop proprietor who starts the misunderstanding)
*Barlowe Borland as Mr. Gurney
*William Demarest as Wallace Whistling (the gossip columnist who makes Mary famous)
*Andrew Tombes as E.F. Hulgar
*Esther Dale as Lillian, J.B.'s secretary
*Harlan Briggs as Office manager
*William B. Davidson as Mr. Hyde
*Nora Cecil as Miss Swerf
*Robert Greig as Graves, Ball's butler

Cast notes:
*Jean Arthur and Edward Arnold starred together in 1935's "Diamond Jim", also written by Sturges.
*This was the second film written by Preston Sturges that William Demarest appeared in, after "Diamond Jim" (fy|1935), and he would go on to do eight others (see note). ["The Great McGinty" (fy|1940), "Christmas in July" (1940), "Sullivan's Travels" (fy|1941), "The Lady Eve" (1941), "The Palm Beach Story" (fy|1942), "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" (1944), "Hail the Conquering Hero" (fy|1944) and "The Great Moment" (1944).]
*Franklin Pangborn another member of Sturges' "de facto" stock company, first worked with the writer on "Imitation of Life" (fy|1934). In fy|1937 before working on "Easy Living", he appeared in "Hotel Haywire", and subsequently in seven other of Sturges' productions (see note). ["Christmas in July" (fy|1940), "Sullivan's Travels" (fy|1941), "The Palm Beach Story" (fy|1942), "The Great Moment" (fy|1944), "Hail the Conquering Hero" (fy|1944), "I'll Be Yours" (fy|1947), and "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock" (fy|1947)]


Preston Sturges had signed a deal with Paramount in fy|1936, and "Easy Living" was his first assignment for them.Arnold, Jeremy [http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=73851&category=Articles "Easy Living" (TCM article)] ] Although putatively based on a story by Vera Caspary, Sturges in fact supposedly kept almost nothing of it except the mink coat. When a studio executive rejected the script because "1936 was not the time for comedies", Sturges took the script directly to Mitchell Leisen, of which Sturges said "going to a director over the head of my producer was not a sagacious move."

Preston based the Hotel Louis on New York's Waldorf Towers, which was a financial flop when it first opened.

Adolphe Menjou was to have been in the cast of "Easy Living", but was forced to withdraw due to illness. The minor surgery of director Leisen caused production to be postponed a week to 5 April fy|1937.TCM [http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title.jsp?stid=73851&category=Notes Notes] ]

Leisen said that Ray Milland got stuck in the tub while shooting the bathtub scene, and although the incident wasn't in the script, Leisen kept the camera rolling and inserted the bit into the film. In the love scene on the divan between Milland and Arthur, the two actors lay on the divan in opposite directions with their heads meeting in the middle. They had no physical contact except a kiss. Such contortions were necessary to satisfy the requirements of the Production Code. The phone gag with Esther Dale as the secretary was based on the behavior of Leisen's secretary, who gets the phones on her desk mixed up.

Under the belief that an actress needs to be satisfied with the way she will look in order to devote all her attention to her acting, Leisen personally directed all of Arthur's wardrobe and hair tests, and went so far as to style her hair himself. (Leisen had come to directing from the world of costume design and art direction.) [imdb name|0500552|Mitchell Leisen] Leisen's pains paid off – the shy and nervous Jean Arthur had a reputation for being difficult, but the director had no trouble with her on "Easy Living", which was all the more surpising since Arthur was in the middle of a bitter dispute with Columbia Pictures' Harry Cohn: dissatisfied with the films Columbia was putting her in, she wanted out of her contract. (Arthur was contractually able to do two outside pictures a year, which is why she could do "Easy Living" for Paramount.) It has been reported in the biography of Jean Arthur and elswhere that the jewels and furs Arthur wore in the film were genuine, and that guards were posted during the filming because of their value.

A legal dispute between Twentieth-Century Fox and Paramount over the source for the film threatened to hold up its release. Fox asserted that the film was based on a Hungarian play called "Der Komet" by Attila Orbok, which they owned and had used as the basis for "My Lips Betray" (fy|1933) and were planning to use as the basis for an upcoming Sonja Henie film, "Thin Ice". Fox eventually backed off their claim of infringement, and "Easy Living" was released as scheduled on 7 July fy|1937.


External links

*imdb title|0028816 |Easy Living
*tcmdb title|73851|Easy Living
*amg movie|1:90257|Easy Living

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