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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Breezy Giving

Easy Living (1937) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Wall Street tycoon J.B. “The Bull of Broad St.” Ball (Edward Arnold) has got up (“Good morning, sir”) on the wrong side of the bed this morning. He castigates his son Johnny Jr. (Ray Milland) for selling a paid-for American car to buy a foreign job on time. He balks at an $18 maintenance expense from Hedley Hard­ware Co. What really gets his goat, though, is his wife Jenny (Mary Nash) adding a $58,000 Kolinsky sable coat to her burgeoning collection (“Well, you want me to look nice, don't you?”) Unable to return it (“Mr. Zickel won't take it back”), Mr. Ball in frustration chucks it off the roof of their 5th Street penthouse.

in fur coatAs fate would have it (“Kismet”) it floats down on top of a nearly penniless Mary Smith (Jean Arthur) on her way to work at The Boys' Constant Companion magazine. She does the right thing trying to find its owner. Mr. Ball does the right thing taking her to an exclusive hat store to replace her chapeau whose feather had broken. She takes Mr. Ball's cavalier attitude toward this gifted coat of unknown worth at face value not realizing its family feud back­ground. The biddies at work recognize it as expensive and the boss fires her for violating “the ethical requirements” of their boys' mag. The hat store owner brags about his big shot customer to his friend the hotelier Mr. Louis Louis (Luis Alberni) who in turn tracks her down thinking she's “the girl­friend of our 1st, 2nd & 3rd mortgage” holder. He gives her (“I think you got the wrong Smith”) a rock bottom price to stay in his extravagant hotel in hopes of boosting business. New York high society after hearing about this confidential guest, flock there as a herd. Some­how she connects up with Johnny Jr. whose off-the-cuff stock advice gets passed on to investors who think it's the real deal coming from the senior Ball. A second Great Depression is about to erupt unless the parties can straighten them­selves out.

Everybody is either doing the right thing or acting in his own self-interest or just being naïve. It's an unmitigated disaster, and the food fight's not even the worst of it.


In another movie “My Concubine” some funny business has been going on at a dance school. When the mother and brother of the protégée come visit her, they won't accept that the teacher had lavished her with expensive gifts out of friend­ship alone. As Van Buren (Franklin Pangborn), the prissy proprietor of the hat shop in “Easy Living,” puts it, “Wher­ever there's smoke, there must be … some­body smoking.” How­ever, none of that had been going on here; the coat was merely a generous gift. For insight consider this admonition, (Eccl. 7:16) “Be not righteous over much; neither make thy­self over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?” For his over-generosity The Bull's marriage was jeopardized. Further­more, counting him­self more wise than was good for him, he was about to lose his shirt on a market that was going into a tailspin. A better option would have been to auction off the coat and donate the proceeds to charity.

Consider also that, (Prov. 18:7) “A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” Mr. Ball's own big mouth played its part in landing him in trouble.

Nor did the gossipy community help matters any. (Prov. 18:8) “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the inner­most parts of the belly.” Van Buren confides to news­paper reporter Wallace Whistling (William Demarest) that he saw: “The bull of broad street … with a girl … in the sable-est sable coat they ever sabled!”

And then there was the family conflict, Ball's son not working and his wife spending money like it's going out of style. (Prov. 18:9) “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”

The Wisdom of Sirach, in the Apocrypha, accepted by Protestants for edification purposes, summarizes what happened to some of the others. (Sirach 11:11–13) “There is one that laboureth, and taketh pains, and maketh haste, and is so much the more behind. Again, there is another that is slow, and hath need of help, wanting ability, and full of poverty; yet the eye of the Lord looked upon him for good, and set him up from his low estate, and lifted up his head from misery; so that many that saw it marveled at him.” The zealous hotelier Mr. Louis made a bad business decision to build a luxury hotel at the beginning of the Great Depression, but he put every­thing he had into that flop. A nobody Mary Smith had the most limited of prospects, yet fate made her rich.

(Sirach 11:21) “Marvel not at the works of sinners; but trust in the Lord, and abide in thy labour: for it is an easy thing in the sight of the Lord on the sudden to make a poor man rich.” It was a cinch to elevate her.

(Sirach 11:29) “Bring not every man into thine house: for the deceitful man hath many trains.” It was perhaps a mistake to receive stock investment adviser E.F. Hulgar (Andrew Tombes) at the door as the financial advice he wheedled out of her got spread far and wide.

Production Values

This screwball comedy, “Easy Living” (1937) was written by Preston Sturges, based on a story by Vera Caspary. It was directed by Mitchell Leisen. It stars Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, and Ray Milland. Jean Arthur proves a splendid comedienne. She has great chemistry with Ray Milland. Ray Milland is cast to perfection as some­one a soupçon debonair, a skosh too bourgeois, but ultimately a real charmer. The entire cast is impressive.

This movie predates our rating system but it secured a United States TV rating of TVPG. There is a sleep­over scene in it so innocent it survived the censors. The leading lady had a distinctive voice and a charm all her own, bearing down with scatter­brained, artless patter. In real life she was an insecure actress. The director made up the auto­mat scene cum food fight; it wasn't in the script.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This was a delightful little comedy, a not-to-be-missed classic. It completely avoids any hint of class struggle as it succeeds in tickling our funny bone. It follows a magic formula we wish we'd see more of.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action scene. Special effects: Average special effects. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the Authorized Version. Pub. 1611. Rev. 1769. Software.

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrick­son Pub. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. Print, WEB.