Yvonne DeCarlo, who was born in 1922. It's thus a perfect time of year to celebrate her life and career by watching one of her films.
RIVER LADY reunited DeCarlo with her FRONTIER GAL (1945) costar Rod Cameron and BLACK BART (1948) costar Dan Duryea; she would soon star with Duryea in the noir classic CRISS CROSS (1949).
RIVER LADY is your typical standard-issue late '40s Universal Western, which means it's got a great cast, is very attractively filmed, and is a lot of fun to watch.
In addition to DeCarlo, Duryea, and Cameron, the movie stars Helena Carter, Lloyd Gough, Florence Bates, and the man who sometimes seems to have been in every Universal Western ever made, John McIntire. I enjoyed noting that in my previous movie watched, THE DEEP SIX (1958), McIntire's wife, Jeanette Nolan, played Alan Ladd's mother.
RIVER LADY is the name of the floating gambling palace owned by Sequin (DeCarlo), who aspires to completely dominate a logging town's economy. More is never enough for Sequin, and she's frustrated when her sometime love Dan (Cameron) refuses to dance to her tune and give up logging to build a business empire.
Dan does end up running a logging business for struggling Mr. Morrison (McIntire), whose sweet, direct daughter Stephanie (Carter) makes clear to Dan that she loves him. Meanwhile Sequin and Beauvais (Duryea), who loves Sequin despite her selfish nature, plot against Mr. Morrison and Dan.
It's unusual seeing the top-billed DeCarlo in what amounts to a villain role as the calculating Sequin. My one disappointment with the film was that they didn't further develop her relationship with Duryea's Beauvais, as I think their characters would have been combustible; they were kindred spirits who could be honest with each other, and they made more sense as a couple than Sequin and Dan.
Helena Carter, previously seen in SOMETHING IN THE WIND (1947), was very good as the direct, loving Stephanie. I enjoyed her unusual character and the way she flummoxes Dan, who eventually finds himself falling for her despite himself.
As is typical for Universal films, both ladies are beautifully gowned by Yvonne Wood. Some of the shots of DeCarlo are absolutely mesmerizing, she was such a beauty!
RIVER LADY looks great although it's pretty obvious that the second unit photography was all done with stand-ins. When the outdoor shots cut to dialogue between the lead actors, we're in Back Projection City! Still, the film has a nice fresh air feel with its logging scenes.
THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER (1954) and GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ (1954).
RIVER LADY was directed by George Sherman and filmed in Technicolor by Irving Glassberg. I've seen a number of Sherman films in recent months, and he always seems to deliver a briskly paced, action-packed film which also hits some strong emotional notes.
The screenplay of this 78-minute film was cowritten by William Bowers and D.D. Beauchamp.
This is one of a number of DeCarlo, Duryea, and/or Cameron films crying out for a U.S. DVD release. I know there are many Western fans, in addition to myself, anxious to open their wallets for such films. Universal Vault, are you listening?!
In the meantime, sincere thanks to John Knight for his assistance in viewing this film.
Update: Ask and ye shall receive! Thanks to reader Kevin for the great news that RIVER LADY is now available on DVD from the Universal Vault Series! It came out less than a week ago. Great news indeed!
There's more info in this post: New on DVD: Yvonne DeCarlo, Joan Fontaine, More.