Review: Leigh Jason’s “Lady for a Night,” Starring Joan Blondell and John Wayne

John Wayne and Joan Blondell in
John Wayne and Joan Blondell in "Lady for a Night"

We will never know exactly why John Wayne did not fight in World War II. Some present the situation as one wherein Wayne wanted to fight, but for various reasons was never able to; others are more critical, thinking he was afraid of abandoning his career and so avoided joining up. Whatever the case, Wayne still worked hard during the war: in 1942 alone, he released seven different feature films, the first being the decidedly average Lady for a Night for Republic Pictures.

In Memphis in the late 1800s, Jenny Blake (Joan Blondell) co-owns a casino with Jackson Morgan (Wayne), who she secretly loves. When she decides she want to enter high society, she makes a deal with Alan Alderson (Ray Middleton), a member of a prestigious but financially struggling family. She’ll pay his debts if he agrees to marry her and induct her into the elite class. Though Alan agrees quite easily, in part due to his constant drunkenness, the rest of the Alderson family aren’t as willing to accept her. Conflict ensues, of course, and along the way there manages to be romance, dance scenes, and a murder trial—something for everyone.

Lady for a Night is nothing more than a middling Hollywood product of the time, complete with some extremely racist caricatures that make it feel more like the kind of thoughtless B picture Republic usually made, rather than the “A picture” they seemingly budgeted it to be.

Where to Watch

Buy it on DVD / Blu-ray

For More on Lady for a Night

Read the review in The New York Times