- Produced and Directed by Bernard Vorhaus
- April 22, 1941
In 1890s New Orleans the Louisiana State Lottery Company uses lottery funds to finance local hospitals but a company official is the secret head of a protection racket murdering winners, so a crusading young lawyer is sent in to expose the truth.
This film apparently passes as a Western but Lady from Louisiana lacks many of the signature elements of a Western of the era or even of a John Wayne Western. There is no gunplay and Wayne does not don a Stetson at any point nor ride a horse. But he gets the girl and is the manliest man in the story.
Wayne stars as Yankee lawyer John Reynolds sent to New Orleans to expose the Louisiana State Lottery Company for all that it is. During the story he falls for Julie Mirbeau (Ona Munson) who by coinky dink is the daughter of General Anatole Mirbeau (Henry Stephenson)-the Lottery’s head in New Orleans.
One thing that gets me is that General Mirbeau is not a bad guy but everyone under him is corrupt and doing bad things. You couldn’t have a John Wayne character run off with an evil man’s daughter after all. From a logical perspective, her being completely oblivious of her father’s crimes does not make sense. I personally think they should have pulled a James Bond with Reynolds and allowed the power of Reynolds’s penis to convert Julie to the side of good. Anywho…
And how did General Mirbeau not know all this these hinky things were happening right under his nose? He had risen to the top of his branch of the organization but was completely blind to the wrongs going on his branch’s part or those of the Louisiana State Lottery Company in general. Willful ignorance or blatant stupidity on his part? Either doesn’t make him a good man. They make him an idiot and a terrible leader.
The real villain of Blackburn “Blackie” Williams (Ray Middleton) is apparently manipulating the whole situation to line his pockets as well as those of every person under him. As Wayne foes go, Blackie is not a force equal to the strong manhood of Reynolds. These are two very unequal foes.
And his attitude is more akin to a jerky business mogul. He even manipulates things to get Julie into her father’s old position while being the one still actually in control. It makes me curious if there was a genetic predisposition to significant stupidity in the Mirbeau family.
What really sells Lady from Louisiana is John Wayne’s screen persona and the natural charm he had. There is nothing here that strongly stands out in this day and age and if it weren’t for John Wayne, this would’ve been forgotten long ago. His easy smile and natural charm are on full display here. You can see how he became a movie star.
This film mixes real history with its fiction. I was completely unaware that this wasn’t even a real thing. In the mid-19th century the Louisiana State Lottery Company was a private business that ran the Louisiana lottery and was for a time the only legal lottery in the United States. It had a reputation as cheating the state and citizens and just generally corrupt. To the people in 1941 this would be recent enough that they would know the real story and this would have much more impact.
Wayne had a stunt double here. Not uncommon. The thing is it is VERY noticeable when the double is there and Wayne is not. Not only is their build different but so is the hair. The gentleman has much longer hair not held in place by any haircare products. Maybe not noticeable back then but very noticeable today.
Most romance films are pretty predictable and this is no different. With whatever they present to you, you can pretty much predict, beginning, middle, and end. This is not a serious film so the corruption, the violence, and even the evil is treated a bit lightly. Its main focus is on romance.
Republic Pictures reportedly spent a pretty penny on this with lavish production values, multiple extras/actors (including Dorothy Dandridge as Felice), and some topnotch special effects for the time.
The climax of the film is a heavy rainstorm and the levees of New Orleans begin to fail because they have not been maintained due to money lining the pockets of the corrupt. In order to save New Orleans from flooding a boat must be jammed in the hole in the levee. It’s a great looking scene marrying miniatures and people.
If you are a fan of romcoms or anything really that appears on Lifetime or Hallmark then I think you’ll like this. It is fun and bouncy and exciting without being exceedingly serious. This is bit of comfort food that you will return to when you wish to relax. While Lady from Louisiana is nothing special but it is very entertaining. It is fun and relaxing with a great turn by John Wayne. You will enjoy.