Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tonight's Movie: River Lady (1948)

September 1st was the birth date of 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.

RIVER LADY gives Universal yet another chance to use the same riverboat and backlot dock area seen in Universal films such as 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.

RIVER LADY isn't one of the very top Universal Westerns, but I enjoyed it very much; it delivers a lot of entertainment value. Universal knew how to make eye-catching, crowd-pleasing Westerns, and this one is a great example.

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.


Blogger Kevin Deany said...

Hi Laura: The Universal Vault series came out with some new titles with very little fanfare, and RIVER LADY is one of them.

Other titles I noticed I didn't know were out include another DeCarlo Universal flick FRONTIER GAL; CALAMITY JANE AND SAM BASS; Jon Hall and Maria Montez in GYPSY WILDCAT; Claudette Colbert in SKYLARK; Marlene Dietrich in DESIRE; Tony Curtis in THE GREAT IMPOSTOR; Hayley Mills in TRUTH ABOUT SPRING.

Also some single discs of movies that previously appeared in various sets: Rock Hudson in THE GOLDEN BLADE; Donald O'Connor in DOUBLE CROSSBONES; Jeff Chandler in YANKEE BUCCANEER and Errol Flynn in AGAINST ALL FLAGS.

I don't know how long these have been out, and I have missed some titles, but RIVER LADY is now available to all to enjoy.

7:55 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Kevin, that is completely amazing! I just checked Amazon and RIVER LADY came out less than a week ago! The same is true of FRONTIER GAL and CALAMITY JANE AND SAM BASS. These sure slipped in under the radar! I appreciate this information immensely, Kevin, and I'm going to do a post in the near future to alert everyone to this great news. Thank you!

Best wishes,

8:03 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

THE GREAT IMPOSTOR is a marvelous movie--an early credit of director Robert Mulligan (still underrated even though he did direct TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD) and one of the best roles ever for Tony Curtis.

10:57 PM  

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