Plot: Molly (Jean Arthur) is always fighting off potential suitors, to the point she can’t seem to find a moment’s rest from the proposals. While she is flattered by all of the attention, she hasn’t found the right man and to get a break from the men currently pursuing her, she signs up for a cross country bus trip. She wants to take in the sights and make some memories, but of course, she finds herself the center of attention with the men she encounters. Meanwhile, rough and rugged cowboy Duke (John Wayne) is popular with the ladies, but he doesn’t want to settle down, so he finds a new lady once things get too serious. When Duke sits on Molly at a rodeo event, the two spark an instant connection and defy each other’s expectations, leading to an unusual, colorful courtship with unexpected results for both.
Entertainment Value: A brisk, light romantic comedy packaged as a western, A Lady Takes a Chance is a fun, infectious movie experience. The story is well worn ground, with two strong willed, hard to saddle singles pushed together and sent on a wild adventure, with romance as the focus. The movie might be lightweight, but it never aspires to be more than simple entertainment and it does what it aims to do, so it is hard to fault the film for lack of ambition. The pace moves at a nice clip and is never slow in the least, with a consistent flow of humor and interesting situations, which the skilled cast makes the most of. The humor is broad, but it hits the mark most of the time and has some fun takes on western cliches, such as a wild bar brawl that provides immense laughs and is a great set piece. A blend of mostly sharp dialogue and some mild slapstick is used here, so if you don’t appreciate some silly physical humor, then you might not get the full benefit of A Lady Takes a Chance. But I think most of the humor works and the movie has a lot of charm, thanks in large part to the leads involved.
John Wayne and Jean Arthur have the leads in this one and to me, both turns in nearly picture perfect efforts, given the tone of the material. Wayne brings his tough guy persona as usual, but tempers it with a skilled comedic presence that I didn’t expect to see him so good at. He shows a lot of charisma and more range than some might think, so I think his work here is terrific. As much fun as Wayne is, Arthur tends to steal the show and she is radiant in her role. I mentioned the bar brawl scene before, which has all this frantic, mile a minute action and humor going on, but Arthur outshines it all with simple reactions, so she is on point here. The two also have great chemistry, whether in more romantic or comedic situations, with some really fun back and forth banter, as their strong wills do battle. The supporting cast also quite good, with Phil Silvers, Charles Winninger, Mary Field, Don Costello, and others on deck. Some might find this one to be too light or silly at times, but I found A Lady Takes a Chance to be full of charm, good performances, and a lot of fun.