Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tonight's Movie: A Lady Takes a Chance (1943)

In the mid-'40s John Wayne made a couple of very enjoyable comedies with two of the screen's great comediennes: WITHOUT RESERVATIONS (1946) with Claudette Colbert and tonight's movie, A LADY TAKES A CHANCE, starring Jean Arthur.

In both films Wayne is a charming leading man who shows a real knack for comedy. He and Jean Arthur are a delightful team in A LADY TAKES A CHANCE. Arthur, at her wide-eyed, somewhat befuddled best, plays Molly, a girl from New York City who takes a 14-day bus tour of the Wild West, where she meets hunky cowboy Duke (Wayne). Molly accidentally misses her tour bus when she's on a date with Duke (I'd miss my bus too!), and they end up spending more time together. Duke swears time and again he doesn't want to be tied down, but he just can't seem to help himself when Molly looks up at him with those big eyes.

I was surprised to realize Arthur was 42 the year this came out; she could easily pass for being in her late 20s. Wayne was 36 at the time. I wish he'd made more light romances such as this and WITHOUT RESERVATIONS; the movies are lots of fun, and he's terrific.

I was curious about what seemed to be some location shooting in authentic Western towns. According to JEAN ARTHUR: THE ACTRESS NOBODY KNEW by John Oller, the movie was filmed in the area around Palmdale and Edwards Air Force Base (called Muroc Air Base in the '40s). Palmdale, in northeast Los Angeles County, is now a city of over 150,000, but back in the '40s it was a much more rugged, undeveloped area.

Charles Winninger plays Duke's sidekick, and Phil Silvers is the tour bus guide. The supporting cast also includes Grady Sutton, Hans Conreid, and Grant Withers as Molly's trio of swains back home. Mary Field is Molly's seatmate on the bus; fans of MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) will recognize her as the mother of the adopted Dutch girl Kris Kringle talks to at Macy's.

This film was directed by William A. Seiter and an uncredited Henry Hathaway. It was shot in black and white and runs 87 minutes.

A LADY TAKES A CHANCE has had multiple releases on VHS. The video I watched was from the Republic Pictures John Wayne Frontier Collection; it was somewhat faded but otherwise a reasonably good print.

This film has also been released on DVD.

Recommended for an enjoyable hour and a half, particularly for fans of the two leads.

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