Artisan Home Entertainment presents
A Lady Takes a Chance (1943)
"I wish all ladies in distress could meet up with a fellow like you."- Molly J. Truesdale (Jean Arthur)
Stars: Jean Arthur, John Wayne
Other Stars: Charles Winninger, Phil Silvers, Hans Conried, Mary Field
Director: William A. Seiter
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:26m:15s
Release Date: 2003-01-21
Genre: romantic comedy
DVD ReviewSometimes it's the most unlikely movie pairings that surprise. Such is the case with A Lady Takes a Chance, a gem of a romantic rib tickler from 1943 teaming legendary screen comedienne Jean Arthur and the king of the movie western, John Wayne. I had no idea that these two actors had ever joined forces and wondered if they would mesh. Well, the producers of this film must have been confident in the potential of this unlikely duo; one didn't go through the trouble of negotiating with gregarious Columbia Pictures head, Harry Cohn, for the temporary release of one of their top draws for nothing.
Molly J. Truesdale (Arthur) is a pretty girl from the Big Apple with more suitors than The Bachelorette's Trista Rehn. Seeking refuge from a nonstop deluge of testosterone, she decides to take a cross-country bus trip to get away from it all. Out west during a stopover, Molly is snapping pictures from a rodeo grandstand when ruggedly handsome cowboy Duke Hudkins (Wayne) lands in her lap (literally) after being tossed from a bucking bronco.
Formalities out of the way, the instantly cozy twosome hit the local saloon to get to know each other better, but Molly can barely get a word in before a succession of local female admirers (okay, groupies) invade their territory. Initially patient, she grows tired of Duke playing Mr. Congeniality and starts to make a break for it, but he catches up with her shyly asking for a chance at redemption.
Molly's rewarded with a great second act: an evening to the point that she's not too disappointed over missing her tour bus. Duke offers to share his hotel room, getting a little overtly hospitable in the process. Offended and then some, Molly takes off in a huff, hitchhiking her way to Gold City. But the road to the next town is largely untraveled, so after an almost fruitless morning of bumming lifts, Molly grudgingly accepts a ride from Duke and his sidekick, Waco (Charles Winninger).
Potential romance is all but deflated that evening as the trio set up camp for an overnight stay in the desert. Tired, cold and frightened by howling coyotes in the distance as her male companions are snoozing, Molly swipes the blanket from Duke's horse Sammy, which is about as bad an idea as pulling the mask off The Lone Ranger. Awoken by the sounds of the sneezing animal at sunrise, Duke quickly learns who the culprit is. Hours later in Gold City, a grim prognosis on the horse's condition is given by a local vet, creating yet another hoop our mismatched couple may or may not be able to jump.
Brimming with delightfulness that will have you grinning from ear to ear, A Lady Takes a Chance captures two of the greatest actors from Hollywood's golden age in peak form. Even a paper thin premise and predictable outcome can't keep Arthur and Wayne from transcending the material effectively, making their only teaming together a pleasure from beginning to end. Especially impressive is the Duke's then unknown flair for comedy, which he would spit polish to perfection in future masterpieces, The Quiet Man and North to Alaska.
And what more can one say about Jean Arthur that film scholars haven't already penned? From You Can't Take It With You to The More The Merrier, her bubbly girl-next-door-with-attitude persona enhanced those great films (which made her a big favorite with 1940s A-list directors Frank Capra and Billy Wilder) and her work here can stand proudly amongst those classics.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: If only I could be as over-the-moon about this DVD incarnation. In cowboy talk, this transfer gave my eyes the equivalent of a saddle sore. Possibly taken from a video master of a print that had seen better days, it's like a greatest hits collection of defects: Horizontal lines, high contrast, video compression, and so on. At one point during the scene in the rodeo grandstand, I couldn't make out distinguishable features of faces in the crowd, as if the extras were all part of an FBI witness protection program.
In all seriousness though, it hurt to watch this film both optically and emotionally. How could a piece of art featuring two such important individuals from our cinematic heritage look so abysmal and have been treated so shabbily? It's my hope that a better copy of A Lady Takes a Chance still exists for a future DVD re-release.
Image Transfer Grade: D-
Audio Transfer Review: Boxiness and slight compression aside, this 2.0 psuedo-stereo surround mix fares slightly better than the video. Despite the low fidelity, dialogue is always easily understood, although there are some pops from time to time, but none that will damage your precious tweeters.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Dry as a desert; not even a trailer for crying out loud. On second thought, the condition of the trailer might have been on a par with the transfer.
Extras Grade: F
Final CommentsAlthough I can't recommend A Lady Takes a Chance highly enough artistically, the horrendously bad film elements force me to give a failing grade to the DVD. It's my hope that in the future above average movies like these in such lamentable condition can be given the restoration they deserve.
Jeff Rosado 2003-02-26