The Lady Eve: What’s The Difference Between Beer & Ale?

My good friend Pete Slosberg sent me this gem, from the classic film The Lady Eve, written and directed by Preston Sturges. The 1941 screwball comedy starred Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck. I remember seeing it when I was a kid (I watched a lot of old movies late at night when I was young) but I certainly don’t remember this beery exchange. One of the main characters is Charles Pike, played by Henry Fonda, and in the story he’s the heir to the Pike Brewing Co. fortune, maker’s of Pike’s Pale, “The Ale That Won For Yale.”


The clip below is about four minutes long, but the conversation doesn’t steer to beer until around the 2:00 minute mark, and lasts for just over a minute.

I’ve also transcribed their beery dialogue from The Lady Eve below. Enjoy.

Stanwyck: “I thought you were in the beer business.”

Fonda: “Beer? … Ale!”

Stanwyck: “What’s the difference?”

Fonda: “Between beer and ale?”

Stanwyck: “Yes.”

Fonda: “My father’d burst a blood vessel if he heard you say that. There’s a big difference. Ale’s sort of fermented on the top or something, and beer’s fermented on the bottom; or maybe it’s the other way around. There’s no similarity at all. [pauses] See the trouble with being descended from a brewer, no matter how long ago he brewed it, or whatever you call it, you’re supposed to know all about something you don’t give a hoot about. [pauses again] It’s funny to be here kneeling at your feet, talking about beer. You see, I don’t like beer. Bock beer, lager beer or steam beer.”

Stanwyck: “Don’t you?”

Fonda: “I do not, and I don’t like pale ale, brown ale, nut brown ale, porter or stout, which makes me ill just to think about it. [hiccups] Excuse me. [pauses again] It was enough so that everybody called me ‘Hopsy’ ever since I was six-years old … Hopsy Pike.”

Stanwyck: “Hello, Hopsy.”

Fonda: “Make it Charlie, will you?”

Stanwyck: [laughs] “Alright, but there’s something kinda cute about Hopsy. And when you got older I could call you Popsy. Hopsy Popsy.”

Fonda: “That’s all I’d need.”



  1. The Duke of Dunkel says

    Preston Sturges made some hilarious films that were just as smart as they were funny. And Barbara Stanwyck was incredibly sexy in The Lady Eve. Pete’s got wicked good taste.

  2. says

    This is one of Preston Sturges’ best…right up there with The Palm Beach Story and Sullivan’s Travels. Notice that the music playing ever so discreetly in the background is “Isn’t It Romantic.”

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