Minggu, 20 Maret 2011

Bernard Vorhaus - Lady from Louisiana (1941)

John Wayne stars in Bernard Vorhaus's film as attorney John Reynolds, sent to investigate the Louisiana lottery. He falls for Julie Mirbeau, the daughter of the organiser but sees her father is murdered by one of his own henchmen when the net starts closing in on the racket. Julie, believing Reynolds' work led to her father's death, abadons him and flaunts herself with the killer Blackie Williams. But when she learns the truth, she turns back to Reynolds and agrees to give State's evidence, only for the trial to be dramatically interrupted - and New Orleans dangerously threatened - by a storm that breaks a levee.

John Wayne ... John Reynolds
Ona Munson ... Julie Mirbeau
Ray Middleton ... Blackburn 'Blackie' Williams
Henry Stephenson ... General Anatole Mirbeau
Helen Westley ... Blanche Brunot
Jack Pennick ... Cuffy Brown
Dorothy Dandridge ... Felice

From IMDb:
Lady from Louisiana took a surprising turn towards relevancy when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005. Too bad the levees couldn't have been repaired in the way they were, at least temporarily as was done in Lady from Louisiana.

There was actually a lottery in Louisiana that was started by the carpetbagger Republican government, post Civil War and continued on into the Gay Nineties when this film is set. And there was a great deal of corruption associated with it. But it was more white collar crime than the extortion racket we see operating here.

In this film John Wayne through the good lobbying of Helen Westley and her good government people gets himself appointed a city attorney to prosecute the Lottery and those connected with it. Not so easy in a city like New Orleans known for its tradition of genteel corruption.

But even more because the Lottery in fact did do some good, financing all kinds of charitable institutions. Plus the fact it was the leading source of revenue for the Louisiana state government in those days before income tax. It was supposed to finance the upkeep of the levees, but that's the part of the story that makes Lady from Louisiana oh so relevant now.

In that tradition of genteel corruption when the stealing gets too out of hand one deals with the problem in house. Which was what Henry Stephenson tried to do with Ray Middleton. Unfortunately Middleton dealt with Stephenson first.

Henry Stephenson has always been one of my favorite character actors. On screen he always played the perfect English gentleman. Though he tries to affect a French creole accent for his part as General Mirabeau and not always successfully, he's a pleasure to watch and even more of one to listen to. His part is based on real life former Confederate General Pierre Beauregard who was associated with the Louisiana Lottery in real life.

Stephenson's daughter is played by Ona Munson. This part and that of Belle Watling in Gone With the Wind are her two best remembered roles. She pairs off with John Wayne nicely, too bad she didn't do more films with him in particular or just in general.

Dorothy Dandridge has a small role here as Munson's maid. Ironically both she and Munson died young and by their own hand. Not a hint here of what Ms. Dandridge would prove capable of.

That climax involving a flash flood and the breakdown of the levees is quite melodramatic, but effective. New Orleans has had a board in place to oversee updating and repair of the levees. Too often it became a sinecure for political hacks as the results of Katrina showed in 2005. That part of the Katrina story has never been reported enough.

The Duke and Munson make a great pair of lovers/rivals and Lady from Louisiana though melodramatic in spots is still entertaining and quite relevant today.

This movie is a bit better than it sounds. It is directed with some visual flair and even if the special effects at the end aren't what people would expect today, in some ways they are a bit more realistic than the death-defying stuff you see now.

This was recorded from UK Channel 4.

no pass

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