John Wayne is a beast, and Jean Arthur is a beauty. She’s adorable, smart, and determined. She knows how to get what she wants. And she learns about how to live by the rules of the west.
Almost like Star Wars, the beginning of A Lady Takes A Chance starts with words.
“Once upon a time…”
Then came the words. “It was so long ago that people drove sixty miles an hour.” It's funny, when you compare 1938 (when this story was set) driving speeds with 2009 driving speeds. I can remember, like it was yesterday, following someone going 60 mph down the 65 mph speed limit highway. And I wasn't around in 1938.
Molly (Jean Arthur) is on a bus tour that will cross the country all the way from New York to Puget Sound. Phil Silvers is outstanding as the bus tour director. She’s expecting to see The Waterfall of Seven Delights, but when she misses her bus halfway across the country (distracted by Duke, played by John Wayne), she would settle for “a waterfall with one delight.”
This is full of horse-lovin’, rodeo-watchin’, beer-drinkin’, western tough-guy action. Molly sits on the bar while the men throw fists, chairs, and each other. It just wouldn’t be a western without a barroom brawl.
After Molly meets Duke Hudkins (while she was taking a picture of him on a bucking bronco at a rodeo, and he fell off the horse and landed on her), she was immediately infatuated. And strangely, not hurt.
Later, Duke’s friend Waco tries to set things straight for Molly. “Love is the best thing there is, I guess, but you’re barking up the wrong cowboy.” She responds, “Any fella that can love a horse can love a girl.”
Molly finally gets back on the bus with the others and goes home disappointed and missing Duke. The men who kissed her farewell show up again and welcome her home, but she’s underwhelmed. How can this city girl find love after all she’s been through? Which man should she turn to for a life of joy and excitement?
According to IMDb.com, John Wayne got his nickname (Duke) after his dog. I’m going to assume his role in this movie was named for him and probably written for him since he was the leading actor in all but eleven of his films. A reasonable assumption since he played 142 leading roles.