A Movie A Day: THE COWBOY AND THE LADY (1938)
I’d advise you to get off yer high horse and stop talkin’ down to people
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today’s our last Gary Cooper movie for a little while. Not forever. There’s one more left in the box set I have, plus I’m sure we’ll be hitting more Cooper outside of that set before this is all said and done. He hasn’t exactly turned me into an instant fan, but he’s given some solid work, especially in today’s THE COWBOY AND THE LADY and the first in the Cooper run THE REAL GLORY co-starring David Niven.
Up front: This isn’t a western. I know it doesn’t look like it in any of the lobby cards, posters or DVD art you’ll see in this installment of AMAD, but the damn thing opens in a modern day (1938 modern day, mind you) casino as it’s raided. Sounds a lot more like the opening to a heist flick or noir, doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not that, either. What it is is a fairly straightforward romance as a lonely daughter of a politician is sent away after being nabbed in the casino bust. The lovely Merle Oberon plays this girl, Mary Smith. Her daddy is an inch away from securing the support of an influential (morally straight) man that will get him the nomination for President of the United States, so any bad press could end the career he’s dedicated his life to building.
With that in mind, he sends his daughter to a country house… I could be mistaken, but I believe the film takes place in Florida, but I can’t say for sure. Anyway, she’s bored with only her maids to keep her company. They end up talking her into a night on the town, going for a triple blind date with some cowboys in town with the Rodeo.
Gary Cooper is the main cowboy, Stretch, not interested in blind dates, wanting to focus on making some money to fix up his homestead. His buddies, Sugar and Buzz (the unmistakable Walter Brennan and Fuzzy Knight, respectively) talk him into it and they all go out.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Oberon is given dating advice by the two maids and that leads her to tell some untruths to Cooper, building up a completely different image of herself than she should have.
But it’s too late. The bug’s got ‘em, Cupid’s arrow has found its targets and they fall in love. Too bad Cooper thinks she’s a chambermaid for a rich woman, which leads to many comparisons to “show horses” which aren’t good for anything but lookin’ pretty. He doesn’t realize it, but he’s talking down to her and it keeps her from telling him the full truth.
So, as you can see it’s not a western. In fact, it does shift genres a tad, but it’s only a marginal move. It starts as romance and moves into romantic comedy as Oberon throws caution to the wind and elopes. Seeing the fallout within her family and her true identity being revealed to her new husband plays almost like a one of the flicks out of my Busby Berkeley box set.
That’s helped in large part to a great character performance by Harry Davenport playing Oberon’s kind-hearted, liberal-minded Uncle Hannibal. He encourages his niece in her romance, in her actually living life. To hell with her father’s career. She has her life to lead and can’t spend it all in service to her father.
Also of worth is Walter Brennan and how wouldn’t he be? He’s such a great personality. That voice is instantly recognizable, the southern twangy warble. Remember him from early AMAD RIO BRAVO? He’s a character and the only difference here is that he’s younger. He still has the same magnetic ability that few character actors have. The next run of flicks features Brennan, which makes me smile.
Final thoughts: This is a very sweet film. Cooper plays genuinely nice really well, if not with a ton of personality. He’s very likable here, but without that extra little bit of oomph that Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant had. I enjoyed this film a lot, but I can’t say it’s one I’d be eager to revisit over and over again. It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s light. It’s a salad of a film.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Friday, September 19th: DAKOTA (1945)
Saturday, September 20th: RED RIVER (1948)
Sunday, September 21st: INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE/TERMINAL STATION (1954)
Monday, September 22nd: THE SEARCH (1948)
Tuesday, September 23rd: ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948)
Wednesday, September 24th: HOUDINI (1953)
Thursday, September 25th: MONEY FROM HOME (1953)
Tomorrow we follow Walter Brennan over to John Wayne flick DAKOTA. We have a pair of Wayne films co-starring Brennan coming up. I’m doing what I can to stay current, but I’ve already seen 5 film in the first day and night of Fantastic Fest, so again I will apologize in advance if any of the upcoming week comes to you in the short, short version as I juggle Fantastic Fest with this schedule.
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Sept. 18, 2008, 11:15 p.m. CST
Sept. 18, 2008, 11:17 p.m. CST
Quint, this series of yours is, hands down, the very best ever served up here on AICN. Please give us more of the same for, oh, the next five years or so. It's this movie review series of yours that keeps me coming back, and has gotten me to recommend this site to friends.
Sept. 18, 2008, 11:53 p.m. CST
Does that make Gary Cooper the Radishes and Walter Brennan the Croutons? Merle Oberon would have to be the Tomato!<p> Gary Cooper is remembered, but not so much anymore. As I get older, the famous golden era movie stars fade in the public conscious. When was the last time anyone brought up the Ritz Brothers? Only Marx Brothers and Three Stooges are remembered these days.<p> But still, a salty old dog like Quint goes forth and seeks to explore the depths of our motion picture history. Good luck brave explorer, may you find Fiddlers Green.
Sept. 18, 2008, 11:53 p.m. CST
Most of Coopers more memorable roles are his later ones.
Sept. 19, 2008, 12:20 a.m. CST
Is the only Cooper movie I really, really love. But, is there any one who doesn't love High Noon? This sounds like a pass to me.</p> By the way, Q, have you ever seen those Cary Grant piffles like "A Touch of Mink" and "The Grass is Greener" (the latter with Robert Mitchum and Deb Karr? I'd be interested in your take on light ones like those that really manage to coats on the oodles of charm of their leads.
Sept. 19, 2008, 12:21 a.m. CST
and the parentheses should have been closed. And I think it might be "THAT Touch of Mink"...Why isn't there an edit button again?
Sept. 19, 2008, 4:06 a.m. CST
I haven't said much in Talkbacks yet but, Quint, I've been following this feature for a little while now and I have to say it's simply fantastic. I'm always anxious to discover what title youv'e watched each day and hear your thoughts on them. Please keep it coming.
Sept. 19, 2008, 7:23 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
He's about ready to make his move, and start popping those buttons. See that hand getting ready to spring into action.
Sept. 19, 2008, 11:27 a.m. CST
He viewed him as "the strong, silent type" in one of the first episodes of The Sopranos which, in the films I know Cooper from - mainly "Real Glory" and "Lives of a Bengal Lancer" - he certainly was not - more the classic romantic lead. John Wayne was the strong, silent type, maybe even George Raft. Heck, I'd put Gary Cooper's modern day equivalent as Brad Pitt. Oh, man, that's gonna get me killed...
Sept. 19, 2008, 1:09 p.m. CST
Sept. 19, 2008, 1:53 p.m. CST
He mentions Gary Cooper several times in the course of the show.
Sept. 20, 2008, 12:14 p.m. CST
One of the nicer, kind hearted movies I remember 'discovering' on TV back when there was no cable and one independent station. You can't find it on TV any longer because it seems TCM has moved to 'Classic Movies' from the 60's and 70's. If you haven't seen this, it's worth your time.
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