Friday, November 3, 2017

FOOD IN FILM BLOGATHON: Easy Living (1937)



Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings are hosting the Food in Film blogathon which runs from November 3 to 5. Yum!  Day 1 recap  Day 2 recap  Day 3 recap  Apperitif

Writer Preston Sturges had been working in Hollywood for seven years, and it would be three more years before he would add film director to his credits. The screenplay for Easy Living is based on a story by Vera Caspary and directed by Mitchell Leisen. It is the height of the screwball comedy era in Hollywood where the wacky wealthy cross confusing paths with the working class with, you should pardon the cliche, ensuing high jinks.


Edward Arnold, Robert Greig, Ray Milland
Johnny: "The cooking isn't good enough!"

Our story starts at breakfast. The third largest banker in NYC, J.B. Ball (Edward Arnold) is not enjoying his morning repast. Perhaps this is not the right time to go over the bills. The chef insists on using butter when J.B. feels you can fry an egg in lard. His profligate son, John Jr. (Ray Milland) has traded in a recently paid off car for a new, expensive, foreign model. A showdown is in the offing between father and son, and son walks out to find his way in the world.


Mary Nash, Edward Arnold
Jenny: "Well, now that you've got it, what are you going to do with it, eat it?"

His wife Jenny (Mary Nash) has purchased a "no return" sable coat for $11,000. The last straw! A slapstick chase through the mansion culminates with the luxury item taking a header off the roof unto the head and hat of working girl Mary Smith (Jean Arthur) riding on the top of a double-decker bus.


Jean Arthur and Kismet

Honest Mary gets off the bus to find the owner and when she and J.B. meet up he insists she keep the coat, plus he buys her a matching hat. And we are off to the races. Shop owner Van Buren (Franklin Pangborn) starts the gossip down the line, and before you know it the whole town knows about a certain financier and a certain girl. Especially when Miss Smith (if that is her real name) takes up residence in the Louis Hotel.


Luis Alberni, Jean Arthur
The Imperial Suite

Mr. Louis Louis (Luis Alberni) is the owner of an extravegant hotel that has three mortgages with Mr. Ball. Mr. Ball employed Louis Louis in his former career as a chef. He was the finest cook in the world, but he wanted to be a hotelier. With all three mortgages due within a week, and armed with the news of Mr. Ball's indiscretion from Mr. Van Buren, Mr. Louis Louis installs Miss Mary Smith in his Imperial Suite. Miss Mary Smith, who lost her job for being late and wearing expensive clothes she can't explain, and not even having the wherewithal to pay her $7/wk rent, doesn't fully understand why she should live in the Imperial Suite, but it's just been that kind of day.



Surrounded by all the comforts of the moneyed, Mary is starving and takes her last remaining loose coins to the Automat. Neil Simon called the Automat "the Maxim's of the disenfranchised" which would exchange your nickels for food displayed behind a glass vending area. Mary can just afford a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.

You will never guess who is working as a bus boy at the Automat. Go ahead. Yes, it is John Ball Jr. and he has an eye for a pretty girl in a sable coat who, incongruously, is patronizing the Automat. John puts his job on the line to get a beef pie into the starving Mary.



Johnny: "By the way, I hear the beefsteak pie is magnificent. Six nickels. And with three nickels more you can get a grapefruit."

A convoluted and impractical plan is in play to get Mary a meal. John's execution of said plan didn't reckon on staff security. John looses his job in spectacular fashion. He punches the cop, starting a melee that opens the vending machines.



"Hey. Food. Food. Come on, folks. Right here for food. All free food."



"Free food!" is the rallying cry and slapstick is the order of the day.



Food is stolen. Food is eaten. Food is spilled. Food is everywhere. 

John and Mary escape into the night, with a half-eaten beef pie left to an unknown fate. The Imperial Suite of the Louis Hotel boosts five reception rooms, a kitchen with an empty fridge, and an incomprehensible bathroom. Plenty of room for soft-hearted Mary to invite the unemployed Knight of the Automat home.


Edward Arnold, Luis Alberni, Jean Arthur, Jon Picorri
Supper time

Still unaware of the beating her reputation is taking, Mary is pleasantly surprised to see the gentleman who gave her the sable coat is now staying at the hotel. J.B.'s wife has hotfooted it to Florida after their fight. John Jr. didn't return home that evening. J.B. decided to get away and have fun by hassling Louis Louis at the hotel. J.B. considers it a duty to order for Miss Smith.

Louis Louis: "Take an order. Now, I think you should have ... you should have now a little snack of lobster."

J.B. Ball: "No, no, no. Not at all. Have you any guinea hen?"

Louis Louis: "Yes."

J.B. Ball: "Breast of guinea hen on Westphalian ham. Guinea hen."

Louis Louis: "What I am thinking about. Naturally. And a little salad with orange and avocado."

J.B. Ball: "No, no. Endive and beetroot. And don't forget the truffles with the guinea hen."

Louis Louis: "Endive and beetroots? Yes, that's right, but may I make a suggestion? A little bottle of 1923 Mums, don't you think?"

J.B. Ball: "No, I do not. I think she should have George Goulet, 1919."

Louis Louis: "With guinea hen, h'mm."

J.B. Ball: "You heard me."

Louis Louis: "And a bomb surprise for the end."

Jean Arthur
Mary's gastronomic dreams come true!

Louis Louis (to Mary): "You are good and hungry now, yes?"

He said a mouthful!



While J.B. rests the peaceful sleep of a man with a clear conscience, Mary and John Jr. bond over guinea hen and truffles while making plans for their next day's job search.

Johnny: "That's one of the finest suppers I ever supped. No, that's not right. Yes, it is too. Supped."

Mary: "It's just like Arabian Nights or something, except you don't look much like Prince Charming."



The Ball Affair, as I call it, has moved beyond the word of mouth gossip stage to the must-read columnist stage. Suddenly the Hotel Louis is the place to be when you want to be seen. Nothing sells like notoriety.


Jean Arthur, Franklin Pangborn
Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

Mary is beset by salesman; high pressure lads with luxury goods to onload. One enterprising broker asks Mary for advise from Mr. Ball on the state of steel on the stock market. Asking the only Mr. Ball she believes she knows, Mary passes on John Jr.'s offhand comment that steel will fall. NYC's third largest banker is in for quite a day when that news gets around! Gossip does more than affect personal relations, it also has a financial impact. When he can no longer look at the long faces of his worried underlings, Ball bellows: "Why don't you birds go out and eat somewhere? You too Lillian (his secretary), and get me a sandwich."


Mary Nash, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland
Sandwich and milk in hand.

Jenny returns to help her now nearly destitute hubby, and to forgive him for the indiscretion he doesn't know he committed. John Jr. rallies around with strong advice and goes to work in the family business. Mary, the unintentional creator of the tumult arrives to become the instrument of calm and order. Can the romantic ending be long in coming?



Johnny: "I've got a job!"

Mary: "Oh, Johnny!"

Johnny: "So have you."

Mary: "Well, what is it?"

Johnny: "Cooking my breakfast!"

Yes, folks. All roads lead to breakfast in the Food in Film blogathon.


Bonus picture of our stars off set. It looks like they made off with some of the props from the Automat scene. Gotta keep their energy up. Screwball comedy is a tough gig.












36 comments:

  1. This film is so much fun and I enjoyed your food focused review!

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    1. Thanks. Hope you're not too hungry right now!

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  2. I love how you created for us a perfect circle of life: from breakfast to breakfast. Very clever.

    So many scenes to love in this film, but my fave is the sable mink dropping on an unsuspecting Jean Arthur on public transit. A wonderful, fabulous sight.

    You've also made me very hungry with all this talk of guinea hen and salad with avocado. I'm off to the kitchen to look for a snack...

    But until then, thank you for joining the blogathon and for bringing this delightful screwball comedy with you. :)

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    1. Thank you, so much. It was a treat to revisit this charming movie. Your blogathon is sure to inspire many meals.

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  3. This is such a great movie, and such a great blog post to celebrate its gastronomic perspective. I love the focus on food. By the way "with a half-eaten beef pie left to an unknown fate." This very thought has kept me up nights. I still wonder.

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    1. Oh, the things that nag at us in the wee hours.

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  4. Delightful review! And boy, do I miss automats. They had one in the Illinois city where I grew up in the late 1960's, just before automats were going the way of the horse and buggy. I was fascinated by it!

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    1. Thanks.

      I've never been to an automat, and it makes me sad. The movies make them look like a spot where I would be very comfortable.

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  5. Wonderful! I didn't know about this film but now it is definitely on my wish-list, it sound fabulous. I have to see it purely to get a glimpse of the incomprehensible kitchen... You have made me exceedingly hungry indeed - I'm off to the kitchen to rustle up a bomb surprise! You have a new fan! Jenny from Silver Screen Suppers x

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    1. Jenny, you are a doll! Thank you so much for the compliment. The entire blogathon has me dreaming of recipes, and a better kitchen than the one I currently enjoy.

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  6. Wonderful, wonderful post. I love this movie and you did a terrific job describing all the food/meals in it. So very clever and entertaining!

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    1. Thank you so much. The top of the blogathon made this pop into my head immediately, and even then I had forgotten some of the meal related scenes and dialogue. It's funny how some movies stay with us.

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  7. Brilliant as always, Paddy. This film is fun from top to bottom, and it's inspired in me a major fascination of automats. Ray Milland and Jean Arthur aren't too shabby, either. :)

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    1. They aren't too shabby at all, are they? Not a combo you might think of off the top of your head, and I sometimes forget how delightful I find Ray Milland.

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  8. My two favorite words in the English language: free food. (Well my two favorite words I can use in a family atmosphere anyway...)

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    1. Blush!

      Yeah, "free food" will get me every time.

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  9. I'll add this to my "to watch list". Jean Arthur was such a great talent. And what a voice. I don't know who to describe it, but its completely warm, unique, and likable.

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    1. I'm not surprised to discover your fondness for Jean Arthur as the men in my family are totally besotted by the lady.

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  10. Is it Louis Louis or Lou-ee Lou-ee like the song?

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  11. It is pronounced as in the song and, I believe contrary to popular usage, the French spelling of "Louis" should be pronounced the same way.

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  12. Absolutely wonderful! What an enjoyable read for a movie I’ve only discovered recently but love so much! Bravo!

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    1. Thank you so much. t is such a lovable movie, and I think these things come to us when they are meant to do so.

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  13. A fun review and you gotta love any movie with an automat (I always think of the one in THAT TOUCH OF MINK)!

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    1. That Touch of Mink does great by the automat! We miss out on so much nowadays.

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  14. Awesome article and great choice for the blogathon! I watched film not a too long time ago when I did my little Ray Milland movie marathon and quite loved it!

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    1. A Ray Milland movie marathon is a most pleasant way to spend your time. Thanks for the compliment.

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  15. This looks like fun! I've never heard of it, so I'll have to look for it on Netflix. The Automat looks very inviting, too.

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    1. I agree, the automat looks like a fun place, although perhaps they did not lend themselves to such riotous madcap mayhem is exhibited in this comedy.

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  16. Wonderful! Love this pick, your post and the movie--all great fun. Automats are endlessly fascinating to me :) Thanks so much for being part of the blogathon, always love to have you along for the party.

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    1. I love coming to your parties! Wish we could have one at an automat!

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  17. I thought I was pretty well-read (well-watched?) in screwball comedies by now, but I've never heard of this one! It sounds wonderful, and delicious--it's definitely going on my to-see list :)

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    1. Delicious indeed! I'm always surprised when a "new" old movie comes my way, and pleased.

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  18. Since I love Jean Arthur - and wish she had made more movies - it's a shame I haven't watched this one yet. Great and creative review, as always!
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!
    Le

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    1. Isn't it grand to have a new Jean Arthur movie to watch? The world is full of surprises.

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  19. I've never seen this despite my admiration for Milland and Arnold, but it sounds like a charmer. Now to see how I can get my hands on it. Terrific choice for the blogathon, byt the way. As usual, you teach me something.

    Aurora

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    1. Easy Living does have a winning way about it. Hollywood had a knack in those days for taking these preposterous situations and making them sweetly believable.

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IT TAKES A THIEF BLOGATHON: You and Me (1938)

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