Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve is some kind of great movie. And yet, like most of the best Hollywood movies of its time, its emotional range is narrow, it makes almost no pretensions to observation of American life or to social satire, its characterization is almost nil and its conflicts a clash of stereotypes. It is, in short, “classic” Hollywood and so has none of the features by which we are accustomed to recognize serious art or dramaturgy. And yet it can surely be argued from the experience of this wonderfully funny movie that its effect on us is somehow serious—that it has the richness, completeness, and resonance by which we recognize something fully and seriously done, whether we can explain it or not—and no one has yet quite accounted for or settled on a way of explaining the power and force, the peculiar beauty of the Hollywood studio film at its best. But The Lady Eve gives us some leading clues to the whole Hollywood achievement. Though it might be objected that this Hollywood movie is a poor example of the studio film, since Sturges was unquestionably an auteur, one of the first within a major studio, an independent artist with a coherent body of unmistakably personal work. But unlike Welles and Chaplin, Sturges was an artist who not only did not fight the Hollywood system, but who hardly seemed able to function without it. And he was happiest, most secure as an artist, when he was dealing with the formulas and stereotypes that the great studios had long ago established and imposed on the imagination of the world. But since his response to those formulas, happy and whole-hearted as it was, was also relatively sophisticated, his work gives a specially helpful insight into the way these formulas—the charms and totems of the so-called Hollywood magic—work on us.