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. Unable to find the coat among the many others in her closet, Ball grabs another fur coat and 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 consults 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 teeter 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.

J.B. is so grateful, he offers his son a job with the company. John is so grateful to Mary, he proposes to her which she gratefully accepts.

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Based on a story idea by Vera Caspary, “Easy Living” is a fantastic screwball comedy written by Preston Sturges, who would soon become a celebrated writer and director of other great screwball comedies at Paramount, primarily due to this film’s success. Caspary would later write the classic noir novel, Ring Twice for Laura, which was made into the superb thriller “Laura” in 1944 starring Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews.

Preston Sturges had signed a deal with Paramount in 1936, and “Easy Living” was his first assignment for them. However, when a studio executive rejected the script because "1936 was not the time for comedies", Sturges took the script directly to director Mitchell Leisen, of which Sturges said "going to a director over the head of my producer was not a wise move."

Director Mitchell Leisen had come to be a director from the world of costume design and art direction. Nervous about working with Jean Arthur, who had a notorious reputation for being difficult, Leisen personally directed all of Arthur's wardrobe and hair tests, and went so far as to style her hair himself. Leisen's pains paid off – the director had no trouble with her on set, which was all the more surprising 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.

Jean Arthur, fresh from her triumphant star turn in Frank Capra’s “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” opposite Gary Cooper, is superb as the scatterbrained Mary trying to make sense of all that is happening to her. From the moment the fur coat hits Mary on the bus, she has nothing but good fortune (albeit losing her job at the Boy’s Constant Companion). But with everything good happening to Mary, anyone who comes in contact with her starts having bad luck. This is what makes a great screwball comedy masterpiece. Arthur and Edward Arnold starred together two years earlier in “Diamond Jim”, also written by Preston Sturges.

Edward Arnold plays the haggard J.B. Ball “The Bull of Broad Street” with such brilliance. Originally written for Adolphe Menjou, who had to back out due to illness, Arnold revels in his crotchety role with such force; it’s hard not to love him. The most priceless scene in the movie is the phone mix up. While his company is on the brink of bankruptcy and the phones are ringing off the hook, his secretary, Esther Dale, gets all the phone cords mixed up and can’t find the right phone with the right caller. Hysterical! The phone gag was based on the behavior of director Leisen's own secretary, who always seemed to get the phones on her desk mixed up.

As his son, John, Jr., Milland just can’t seem to do anything right, except fall in love with Mary, which he does with ease. Best known for his Oscar winning role in Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend” he was a king at screwball comedies. Milland got stuck in the tub while shooting the bathtub scene, and although the incident wasn't in the script, the director kept the camera rolling and inserted the bit into the film. Also, in the love scene on the divan between he and Jean Arthur, the two actors lay on the divan in opposite directions with their heads meeting in the middle. Unfortunately, due to the Production Code, they could have no physical contact except a kiss. Milland played the scene for everything it was worth.

Although “Easy Living” wasn’t nominated for any awards, this could have easily been nominated as one of the best screwball comedies of 1937. It’s a gem!