Easy Living (1937) with Jean Arthur

Edward Arnold  is yelling again. This time the big teddy bear is angry with his wife (Mary Nash) for having too much stuff. Since the missus cannot sustain her style in last year’s ermine, she tells hubby to take a flying leap. He flings her fur coat off the roof instead.

Enjoying the fresh air of Manhattan, working girl Jean Arthur is conveniently sitting below where the plummeting pelt hits her. Arnold insists  that Arthur  keep the coat and buys her even more couture, which leads to scandal. So far, the moral of the story - and you know there is one since this little tale is spelled with a capital  S-T-U-R-G-E-S - is that giving away lots of stuff is fine, as long as it’s not to your wife.

Searching for pennies

But the plot doesn’t matter. The audience knows the destination (a happy ending) and is more interested in who makes them laugh or cry during the journey. Hence this film gives us wonderfully tried and true traveling companions:

  • Down-on-her-luck Cinderella potentially makes good. Check.
  • Dominant, middle-aged guy becomes a mentor of sorts. Check.
  • A litany of colorful supporting players fills the screen with their quirks. Double Check.
  • A smart-aleck love interest comes along for the ride. Indeed.
In the tub

Fresh-faced Ray Milland is the man who makes the moves on Ms. Arthur this time around. And move they do. They do not know each other ten minutes and yet they have dinner together...in her apartment...alone...undressed. Well, he’s in an ascot and bathrobe that reads, “Stolen from Hotel Louis,” which he dons after flopping around, fully clothed, in Arthur’s bathtub. The light touch to this first-date-that-isn’t-really-a-first-date date guides the film away from a tone that could be quite crude  into a most adorable little evening.

It is also in this after-dinner moment that we get some of the film’s most memorable shots. The inevitable kiss is coming, but director Mitchell Leisen makes them dance. Not literally, since the characters can barely move after a sumptuous meal.

No, the director’s camera  and the editor’s cuts swirl around the two leads while they make small talk and restlessly try to find a comfortable lounging spot on a large settee.  Considering the inane conversation during this scene, we are supposed to notice the movement which gets us to The  Big Moment of their relationship.

Bantering, they find themselves lying down, feet in opposite directions, eyelids heavy with the sleep of the satisfied. It’s only then that Milland notices he has her in a compromising position. He takes advantage of the moment and lightly locks lips sort of sideways and upside down. Leisen, et. al. get major kudos for giving us an interesting journey to an obligatory kiss.

Easy Living is a lively, entertaining romp that's equal parts pratfall and tender moments.  By the end, everyone's all warm and fuzzy, even Mr. & Mrs. Fur Flinger.


  1. A fun movie, and nobody does these romps better than Jean Arthur. I love when she has to demolish the piggy bank, and misses at her first try. Also the Automat scene.

  2. One of my favorites! Milland is sooo cute in this one. :) And that bathroom set!!

    Best wishes,


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