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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A LADY TAKES A CHANCE (1943)

Jean Arthur’s big film for 1943 was George Stevens’ THE MORE THE MERRIER, but she also got roped into making this modest city-gal-meets-cowboy indie. And why not? It’s a relaxed charmer; it co-stars John Wayne in his first romantic-comedy; and her husband was the producer. Jean’s on a bus trip out West when she stops to see the rodeo. Wayne’s a contestant who gets bronco-busted right on top of her. How’s that for a meet-cute? They get on right from the start, but he wants to rush into bed and she wants to rush into domesticity. Something’s gotta give, especially since Jean’s just missed her bus. Most of the gags still come off and director William Seiter doesn’t worry the ones that don’t. (Wayne does, though. He’s still a newbie at these things.) Hardly the most fluid of meggers, Seiter knows enough to give Arthur plenty of elbow room and she sure knows how to use it. Whether cracking that unmatchable voice or finding that you can’t jump on a truck bed when you’re wearing a tight skirt, the lady had more technique (and heart) than a dozen of today’s rom-com queens.Note the new title and reversed billing positions for this re-release poster when Arthur had stopped making films and Wayne had become Hollywood's top cowboy.

DOUBLE-BILL: Stevens' THE MORE THE MERRIER/’43 is the logical paring, but why not try this with Joshua Logan’s Marilyn Monroe pic, the heartfelt, if slightly obvious BUS STOP/’56 as a chaser. Don Murray & Arthur O’Connell have roles just like the ones Wayne and his bud Charles Winninger play here. But who in their right mind (other than Norman Mailer) would choose Marilyn Monroe over Jean Arthur?

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