TEXAS LADY starts off well – on a Mississippi river boat a poker game is in progress. Professional gambler Chris Mooney (BARRY SULLIVAN) is being beaten by a black gowned Prudence Webb(CLAUDETTE COLBERT). Everyone is looking on in amazement as Chris ends up losing $50,000 to the stranger. Prudence invites him to breakfast the next morning.
Prudence tells Chris, “I’m an average woman,born and brought up in New Orleans. I am not a professional gambler.”
Chris doesn’t believe her but is attracted to her and says they’d make a fortune as a team on the river boats.
Her reply is, “I happen to be going into the newspaper business at Fort Ralston in Texas.”
She has been practising gambling for a year, waiting to meet him – her father had embezzled $50,000 which he lost to Chris. Her father then killed himself.
Before leaving, Prudence pays back the money her father embezzled.
At Fort Ralston, the town is run with an iron hand by two big ranchers, Ralston (RAY COLLINS) and Sturdy (WALTER SANDE) who refuse to accept the West is changing.
Prudence takes over the Clarion newspaper from Clay Ballard (DOUGLAS FOWLEY) and one of the townsfolk expresses surprise,“Dog my hide,if it ain’t a woman newspaperman.”
Prudence encounters Ralston and Sturdy’s hired killer,Jess Foley(GREGORY WALCOTT) who takes a shine to Prudence and tells her about a dance, the Fandango the following night.
Prudence seems intrigued by him and does go to the dance, though she tells him, “Your reputation as a killer doesn’t frighten me.” he kisses her but she resists.
Chris has followed her to Fort Ralston and arrives during the dance. When he breaks in on their dance,Prudence says, “You don’t cut in in Texas.” – as Jess looks murderously at Chris.
(Incidentally, how did she know about that Texas custom – she’s been in Texas about two days!)
Next day Jess tells Prudence “If I find him in town by four o’clock,I’ll kill him.”. (The French title of Texas Lady is “Rendezvous at 4 O’Clock.)
So there is a ‘High Noon’ confrontation (at 4 o’clock). Chris survives and Jess is in fact killed by the widow of someone he murdered ( a short but great little scene as uncredited CELIA LOVSKY, as the widow Gantz comes into Jess’s cabin, raises a rifle,aims and shoots him dead.)
As the town stands up to Ralston and Sturdy, there is a stand-off at the end, as they won’t allow anyone in or out of the town.
So there is a lot going on but,oh so many reservations.
I couldn’t buy Prudence spending a year learning to beat Chris at poker. A bit daft.
Barry Sullivan at one point refers to Claudette as “that girl” ( Claudette looks great but she was in her early 50’s).
Also age related, it is an unusual change to have Gregory Walcott falling for Claudette’s character – Gregory is 25 years younger.
(Now if genders were reversed,not an eyebrow would be raised.)
An IMDB reviewer called TEXAS LADY “a sad little film.” I don’t agree but I just couldn’t get my head around Claudette’s casting. If it had been VIRGINIA MAYO or AUDREY TOTTER,MARIE WINDSOR, it would have been fine ( though I doubt any of these ladies would have played a character called Prudence!)
I am still trying to figure out why Claudette Colbert, the epitome of 30s sophistication, did this film. It’s not a bad western but she just seems out of place.
What was Claudette thinking? Her last film had been three years earlier. She was active in Tv. Maybe she just wanted to be in front of a movie camera again.
But how did it come about? I can’t imagine Claudette’s agent telling her there’s a part in a small scale western you might want to consider. And I can’t imagine the producers thinking, why don’t we ask Claudette Colbert.
Of the top stars, I think only BARBARA STANWYCK was a natural in westerns.
I guess I just felt disappointed to see the great Colbert in what was just an average western.