The Cowboy and the Lady: Samuel Goldwyn, November 17, 1938

New York Times, November 25, 1938

The Cowboy and the Lady,' with Gary Cooper, at the Music Hall At the Rialto At the St. Marks Theatre

By FRANK S. NUGENT

With Walt Disney's "Ferdinand the Bull" and Samuel Goldwyn's "The Cowboy and the Lady" on its Thanksgiving Day menu, the Music Hall this week seems to have corralled the town's choicest specimens of whimsical livestock. On the whole, "Ferdinand," with Robert Lawson's drawings animated by the pixyish Disney staff and with the indispensable portions of the Munro Leaf text retained as a vocal commentary, is the more amusing production of the two.

We realize that it is hardly a major one, compared with Mr. Goldwyn's generous contribution, but Thanksgiving or not, it's a little too late in the day to expect a film critic not to look a gratuitous horse opera in the mouth, especially when, as in the present case, it is rather self-consciously a horse opera of a different color.

It has been freely admitted by his own press agents that Mr. Goldwyn, Hollywood's most passionate revisionist, was up to his knees in authors and abandoned scripts before "The Cowboy and the Lady" was completed. But this time the legend is hard to believe, as the picture still seems to be in need of a final revision to bring it either more nearly into conformity or more ludicrously into non-conformity, with life as it is lived outside of movie studios.

Of course, there is always Gary Cooper's personality, but even Mr. Cooper, the picture's greatest asset, has his moments of diminishing returns when he seems to be quoting himself, or when, utterly forsaken by the authors and the director, he looks about helplessly, like a ghost who wonders if he isn't haunting the wrong house.

But the essential weakness of "The Cowboy and the Lady" is the fact that, in spite of four authors, each presumably with a highly developed sense of humor, it just isn't funny enough to justify the very queer picture of American politics and society it presents. Merle Oberon as the bored daughter of a candidate for the presidential nomination, who accompanies the housemaids on a date with some rodeo cowboys (that was in Palm Beach), meets Mr. Cooper, and elopes with him on a surprisingly de luxe cattle boat to Galveston, is an example of hopelessly confused characterization.

And Mr. Cooper, whether in Montana, sentimentally readying a house for Merle (whom he believes to be a housemaid, like the democratic Patsy Kelly), or back in Palm Beach, where at last he retrieves her from the curse of riches and causes her father to see the vanity of running for President, belongs in quotation marks.

His love-making, with its shy cuteness, yet invincibly respectable determination, you have smiled at in "Desire" and "The Plainsman," to go no further back. And his climactic speech, in which he eloquently tells off the assembled stuffed shirts at the Palm Beach political dinner, is straight out of "Mr. Deeds." The trouble in this case is that the shirts are too obviously stuffed; it is bad form, in shirt-stuffing, to allow the straw to protrude from the sleeves.

The Cowboy and the Lady: Samuel Goldwyn, November 17, 1938


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