Monday, August 11, 2008

Tonight's Movie: The Cowboy and the Lady (1938)

THE COWBOY AND THE LADY is a delightful feel-good romantic comedy...just the ticket to relax and enjoy after a long day's work.

Mary Smith (Merle Oberon) is a wealthy, refined young lady whose father aspires to be President. When she is banished to Palm Beach for a minor behavioral infraction which her father fears could endanger his Presidential hopes, lonely Mary meets Stretch (Gary Cooper), a cowboy competing in a local rodeo. (Rodeos in Palm Beach?!) Stretch believes Mary is a lady's maid, and before you know it, Mary and Stretch are on a boat to Galveston, being married by the captain. But what will happen when Stretch learns Mary's true identity?

Cooper and Oberon are adorable together, and completely believable as a couple despite their different personalities and characters. Beneath the proper exterior, Mary's got gumption and a sense of humor, and the shy, mumbling cowboy Stretch has gumption too, proposing to a girl after the first date! Their love scenes are beautifully played, particularly the fog-shrouded scenes on the Galveston boat. One can easily imagine Oberon's Mary turning her back on Washington and Palm Beach to be a ranch wife in Montana -- especially when her husband is played by Gary Cooper!

Cooper has a terrific bit in an extended pantomime sequence, as he invites cowhands into the framework of the house he's building and serves them imaginary drinks. It's a small moment which provides a great illustration of his comedic talent.

Cooper and Oberon are supported by an excellent cast, with particular kudos going to Harry Davenport as Mary's rascally uncle. It's a marvelous performance which Davenport's fans will especially enjoy.

Walter Brennan, whose career had really taken off just a couple years earlier with an Oscar for COME AND GET IT, would win the second of his three Oscars for KENTUCKY, released just after THE COWBOY AND THE LADY. In this film Brennan plays a cowhand named Sugar.

Patsy Kelly, Mabel Todd, and Henry Kolker round out the cast. A number of familiar character actors appear in small roles, including Hank Worden, George Chandler, Irving Bacon, and Syd Saylor.

The last few minutes of the film will simultaneously make you laugh and bring a small tear of happiness to the eye. A lovely comedy from Hollywood's Golden Era.

THE COWBOY AND THE LADY runs 91 minutes. It was directed by H.C. Potter. The script, based on a story by director Leo McCarey, rather bizarrely was written by at least 15 people, including Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, Anita Loos, and Robert Riskin! Fortunately too many cooks didn't spoil the broth.

This movie is available on DVD as part of the Gary Cooper MGM Movie Legends Collection. (Ignore Amazon's editorial review; whoever wrote it simply doesn't appreciate a fun '30s romantic comedy.) The other films in the DVD set are VERA CRUZ, THE REAL GLORY, and the silent film THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH. It's also available on video.

This film can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

February 2016 Update: THE COWBOY AND THE LADY has been reissued on DVD as part of the Warner Archive's Samuel Goldwyn Classics line. My review of the DVD is here.


Blogger Ms.Daisy said...

Laura because of your terrific review of The Cowboy and the Lady, I just went to my Netlix account and put the movie at the top of my queue. Now, I can't wait to see it.
You will make an old movie fan of me yet!


11:29 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you enjoy it, Jean! It's one of those "little" old movies that isn't an ultra-classic but provides fun entertainment that leaves you with a smile on your face, feeling happy you saw it.

Let us know what you think. :)

Best wishes,

11:33 AM  

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