Monday, June 13, 2022

Tonight's Movie: The Lady From Texas (1951)

THE LADY FROM TEXAS (1951) is a cute Western comedy from Universal Pictures.

The movie is very much in the "family" genre, feeling a bit like SADDLE TRAMP (1950) with its gentle humor and some quietly touching moments.

Mona Freeman plays Bonnie Lee, a ranch cook who spends her free time looking out for the welfare of a neighbor, Miss Birdie Wheeler (Josephine Hull of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE). Incidentally, I have no idea which of these women is the title "Lady From Texas"!

Bonnie and kindly Jose (Chris-Pin Martin) supply the eccentric Miss Birdie with food -- even planting eggs in her chicken coop -- and try to protect her from people like neighbor Cyril (Craig Stevens), who wants her property.

When Bonnie spots new hand Dan Mason (Howard Duff) at her employer's ranch she thinks he'd be perfect to help put Miss Birdie's decaying property back into shape, and she engineers him going to work for Miss Birdie.

Dan is initially taken aback and exasperated by oddities such as Miss Birdie talking to animals and having a pet skunk, but just as Bonnie hopes, he grows to care about Miss Birdie...and maybe Bonnie too.

Then, determined to obtain Miss Birdie's property, Cyril takes Miss Birdie to court to have her declared insane and establish a conservatorship.

This is a cute little 78 minutes with plenty to appeal to both adults and children. I could have used just a little bit more of Bonnie and Dan and a little bit less of Miss Birdie's antics, but all in all it's quite enjoyable. The movie wants nothing more than to entertain and make viewers smile, and it succeeds.

Continuing with the SADDLE TRAMP connection, Hull's Miss Birdie reminded me a little bit of Jeanette Nolan's delightfully addled SADDLE TRAMP character, who believes in the "little people." Eventually we learn Miss Birdie isn't quite as "out there" as we think, thanks to a moving "courtroom" moment -- I put courtroom in quotes as the hearing is actually held outdoors.

Freeman sometimes played giddy yet determined characters, and this film is a good example. She's a little batty, but it comes from a good heart and wanting to help someone. And she's awfully pretty, as Dan soon notices.

As I wrote at the time of her passing, thanks to photographing young Mona Freeman spent many years switching back and forth from adult to child or teenaged roles. She was 25 when this film was released. The very same year she played Joan Fontaine's 15-year-old daughter in DARLING, HOW COULD YOU! (1951).

Duff is fine as Dan, though it's admittedly not as interesting a part as the lead female roles. Dan is a stark contrast from the selfish character Duff had played the year before in SHAKEDOWN (1950).

I've come to feel that Joseph Pevney is quite an underrated director. If I see his name at the start of a Universal Pictures film, it's a certainty I'll be entertained. I've seen 17 or 18 of his films and as far as I remember, I enjoyed them all.

The movie was filmed by Charles P. Boyle. The screenplay was by Gerald Drayson Adams and Connie Lee Bennett, from a story by Harold Shumate.

The supporting cast includes Gene Lockhart, Jay C. Flippen, Ed Begley (Sr.), Barbara Knudson, Morgan Farley, Dabbs Greer, John Maxwell, and Kenneth Patterson.

To the best of my knowledge, THE LADY FROM TEXAS has never had a VHS or DVD release. I was able to see it thanks to GritTV.

I would love to see a company like Kino Lorber release lesser-known Universal Westerns such as this one in the future. We can hope!


Blogger Vienna said...

This sounds fun. Thanks for highlighting it.

12:26 AM  
Anonymous Barry Lane said...

I've always believed, never questioned, that Josephine Hull played the title character. Mona was a girl, and Hull a mature person; a lady.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hope you can see it, Vienna!

Barry, your theory makes sense. Thanks.

Best wishes,

8:59 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Howard Duff was Sam Spade on the radio--- he had a great radio voice. Craig Stevens was a perfect Peter Gunn with his excellent Cary Grant vibe.

12:01 AM  
Blogger Lee R said...

I've been listening to old time radio since the '70s and seeing Howard Duff (Sam Spade) and Peter Gunn himself IN COLOR were two big reasons I wanted to watch this movie. Just saw it today thanks to a DVD I bought many years ago (but never watched till I read your review).

This is what I call a smile a while movie, the whole time watching it I caught myself smiling. A true pleasure for 78 minutes. Mona Freeman was really cute and Josephine reminded me of her character in Arsenic & Old Lace. I wonder if she was typecast as a bit loony in all her roles. If you'd like to hear Howard Duff in the role he was born for as Sam Spade I've featured several of his episodes in my old time radio podcast, called Sounds Like Radio by Your Humble Host. You can hear many Great Gildersleeve and classic pop music shows along with many other great old time radio shows and Jean Shepherd shows right here (it's also a smile a while place to be):

4:43 PM  

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