Easy Living (1937)

88 mins | Screwball comedy | 16 July 1937

Director:

Mitchell Leisen

Cinematographer:

Ted Tetzlaff

Editor:

Doane Harrison

Production Designers:

Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegté

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

In a news item dated 30 Oct 1935, HR announced that, as a result of an illness, Adolph Menjou was forced out of the cast of Easy Living . On 30 Mar 1937, HR stated that this film's shooting was being postponed until 5 Apr pending the recovery of director Mitchell Leisen, who underwent minor surgery. A modern biography of Preston Sturges states that this film marked his first assignment at Paramount. According to the biography, Vera Caspary's story differed significantly from Sturges screen adaptation: in her story, the girl steals the mink coat and begins a life of deception, eventually losing the man she loves. Reportedly, all that Sturges kept of the original story was the mink coat, from which he built the plot of Easy Living . In an interview in a modern source, Leisen states that in Sturges' script, all the dialogue between Jean Arthur and Ray Milland in the Automat was said in the doorway as Milland enters and Arthur leaves. It was Leisen's idea to have all the food doors open at once and the "bums" of New York rush in to get free food. During the food fight, one cast member reportedly put pepper in the fan, causing everyone to sneeze. According to Leisen, Preston based the Hotel Louis on New York's Waldorf Towers, which was a financial failure when it was first built during the Depression. Leisen also states that while shooting the bathtub scene in the hotel, Milland actually got stuck in the tub, and although it wasn't in the script, Leisen kept the cameras rolling as Milland tried to get ... More Less

In a news item dated 30 Oct 1935, HR announced that, as a result of an illness, Adolph Menjou was forced out of the cast of Easy Living . On 30 Mar 1937, HR stated that this film's shooting was being postponed until 5 Apr pending the recovery of director Mitchell Leisen, who underwent minor surgery. A modern biography of Preston Sturges states that this film marked his first assignment at Paramount. According to the biography, Vera Caspary's story differed significantly from Sturges screen adaptation: in her story, the girl steals the mink coat and begins a life of deception, eventually losing the man she loves. Reportedly, all that Sturges kept of the original story was the mink coat, from which he built the plot of Easy Living . In an interview in a modern source, Leisen states that in Sturges' script, all the dialogue between Jean Arthur and Ray Milland in the Automat was said in the doorway as Milland enters and Arthur leaves. It was Leisen's idea to have all the food doors open at once and the "bums" of New York rush in to get free food. During the food fight, one cast member reportedly put pepper in the fan, causing everyone to sneeze. According to Leisen, Preston based the Hotel Louis on New York's Waldorf Towers, which was a financial failure when it was first built during the Depression. Leisen also states that while shooting the bathtub scene in the hotel, Milland actually got stuck in the tub, and although it wasn't in the script, Leisen kept the cameras rolling as Milland tried to get out of the tub, and inserted it in the film. Leisen also reports that in order to get the love scene past the censors, he had to stage it with Milland and Arthur lying on the divan in opposite directions with their heads meeting in the middle, and that there could be no physical contact outside of a kiss. Leisen cast Esther Dale as the secretary because she looked just like Eleanor Broder (apparently his assistant); and the phone gag was based on Broder, who used to get the several telephones on her desk mixed up. Broder, quoted in the modern source, states that Arthur was "terribly concerned" with the way she looked, and Leisen personally directed all her wardrobe and hair tests and styled her hair himself, with the belief that if an actress is satisfield with the way she looks on the screen, she will devote all of her attention to her acting.
       According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Twentieth Century-Fox officials charged in a series of letters before this film's release, that Easy Living was based on a Hungarian play Der Komet , by Attila Orbok, to which Twentieth Century-Fox owned the motion picture rights. The play had been the basis for the 1933 Fox film My Lips Betray and, more importantly to the officials, was the source for their next picture starring ice-skating star Sonja Henie, Thin Ice , which was due to be released on 3 Sep 1937. Although Twentieth Century-Fox warned Paramount that unless the release of Easy Living was held up until after the first-run engagements of Thin Ice , they would institute legal action, Twentieth Century-Fox's legal department subsequently determined that they "could not sustain our claim of infringement against Easy Living " and no such action was taken. For more information regarding the dispute, please See Entry for Thin Ice . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Jul 37
p. 3.
Film Daily
7 Jul 37
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 35
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 37
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 37
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
3 Jul 37
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
3 Jul 37
p. 43.
Motion Picture Herald
10 Jul 37
p. 51, 54
New York Times
8 Jul 37
p. 20.
Variety
7 Jul 37
p. 12.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Adia Kuznetzoff
Dora Clement
Olaf Hytton
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Arthur Hornblow, Jr. Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Int dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DETAILS
Release Date:
16 July 1937
Production Date:
began early April 1937
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 July 1937
Copyright Number:
LP7288
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
88
Length(in feet):
7,911
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
3401
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

When millionaire banker J. B. Ball, "The Bull of Broad Street," discovers his wife's purchase of a $58,000 sable coat, he throws it out the window of their Fifth Avenue penthouse and it lands on Mary Smith, ruining her hat. Ball then takes her to a millinery shop and tells her the coat is hers to keep. At work, Ball refuses Mr. Louis Louis' mortgage extension on the Hotel Louis, whose reputation has floundered. When Mary arrives late to work that morning at the publishing office of "The Boys' Constant Companion" wearing a new sable hat and coat, which she claims is only Kolinsky, fake fur, she is fired for questionable morals. Louis, meanwhile, receives word from the milliner that Ball is having an affair and invites Mary to stay at his hotel so she can tell Ball how magnificent it is. Mary accepts unsuspectingly, then goes to the automat with her last dime and meets John Ball, Jr., who has taken a job as a busboy to prove himself to his father. When John causes a riot at the restaurant by opening the food doors so Mary can get a free meal, he is fired. Mary and John then arrive at the Hotel Louis. There, Ball, taking a room because his wife and son have left him, insists on having an elegant dinner sent up to Mary's suite, and she dines with John. The next morning, Wallace Whistling's gossip column tells of Ball's affair, and the Hotel Louis becomes instantly fashionable. When stockbroker E. F. Hulgar comes to Mary's room to get Ball's opinion of the steel market, John ... +


When millionaire banker J. B. Ball, "The Bull of Broad Street," discovers his wife's purchase of a $58,000 sable coat, he throws it out the window of their Fifth Avenue penthouse and it lands on Mary Smith, ruining her hat. Ball then takes her to a millinery shop and tells her the coat is hers to keep. At work, Ball refuses Mr. Louis Louis' mortgage extension on the Hotel Louis, whose reputation has floundered. When Mary arrives late to work that morning at the publishing office of "The Boys' Constant Companion" wearing a new sable hat and coat, which she claims is only Kolinsky, fake fur, she is fired for questionable morals. Louis, meanwhile, receives word from the milliner that Ball is having an affair and invites Mary to stay at his hotel so she can tell Ball how magnificent it is. Mary accepts unsuspectingly, then goes to the automat with her last dime and meets John Ball, Jr., who has taken a job as a busboy to prove himself to his father. When John causes a riot at the restaurant by opening the food doors so Mary can get a free meal, he is fired. Mary and John then arrive at the Hotel Louis. There, Ball, taking a room because his wife and son have left him, insists on having an elegant dinner sent up to Mary's suite, and she dines with John. The next morning, Wallace Whistling's gossip column tells of Ball's affair, and the Hotel Louis becomes instantly fashionable. When stockbroker E. F. Hulgar comes to Mary's room to get Ball's opinion of the steel market, John jokes that steel will go down, mistakenly causing his father to lose his fortune. The headlines then read that the "Bull of Broad Street" is tottering, and Ball's wife and son return home. When John discloses Mary's leak to the stockbroker, Ball sends the police to find Mary to learn the man's identity. Meanwhile, Mary, realizing her coat is real sable, arrives at the Ball residence to return it, and John and his mother accuse her of being Ball's mistress. John's idea for Mary to reverse the bear market on steel by calling Hulgar saves Ball's fortune, and when Mrs. Ball learns that Mary spent the weekend with John, she is convinced Mary is innocent. Ball hires John as his broker and John gives Mary a job cooking his breakfast. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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