J.B. Ball, a rich financier, gets fed up with his free-spending family. He takes his wife's just-bought (very expensive) sable coat and throws it out the window, it lands on poor hard-working girl Mary Smith. But it isn't so easy to just give away something so valuable, as he soon learns.
Like no other 1930s screwball comedy I've seen so far, Easy Living evinces its Depression-era origins. This is not merely in the lavish hotel (with an un-dressing room as well as a dressing room), but moreover in the many extended sequences involving food and various gastronomical discussions thereof, reflecting that these films were in part a way to cater to the epicurean fantasies of those who were not having an easy 30s at all. None of the slapstick turns really work for me, and they aren't helped that they go on too long:
Despite continual comic mix-ups and misadventures, several of the sequences are drawn out a touch too long, dwelling on ideas that don’t generate outrageousness and laughs in ample enough measure to justify their minutes.
— Mike and Joel Massie (GoneWithTheTwins)
On the other hand, there is something almost democratic about this famous foodfight:
In contrast to glossy 30's movies about rich people in which the poor never intrude, the living conditions in Easy Living's New York are such that nobody can afford to pass up free eats.
— Glenn Erickson (DVDTalk)
Another Depression-era artefact is that it shows the venality of stockbrokers and financiers whose speculation put the United States into dire straits to begin with. Yet perhaps the key to Easy Living is that the film is studious—punctilious, even—never to show Mary taking advantage of her new position. And I loved the Italian malapropisms, as well — was this inspired by the character of Alberto Beddini from Fred Astair's Top Hat (1935)? Alas, along with the overly drawn-out slapstick routines, the mistaken identity at the heart of this film (as it is with many screwball comedies…) is also pedantically explained to the viewer, leaving a somewhat dry taste on the finish.