Lady For a Night
aka “Lady from New Orleans", "Memphis Belle", "The Lady of New Orleans"(1942)
Drama / Romance / Western
Directed by Leigh Jason
Joan Blondell as Jenny Blake
John Wayne as Jack Morgan
Philip Merivale as Stephen Alderson
Blanche Yurka as Julia Alderson
Ray Middleton as Alan Alderson
Edith Barrett as Katherine Alderson
Leonid Kinskey as Boris
Hattie Noel as Chloe
Montagu Love as Judge
Carmel Myers as Mayor's wife
Dorothy Burgess as Flo
During the late 1800’s Jenny Blake is struggling to break into southern high society, but is held back by her occupation of owner of a riverboat gambling establishment. Frustrated by the hypocrisy of this, as many of the people who shun her also frequent her establishment, Jenny is determined to find a way in. Jack Morgan, who co-owns the Memphis Belle with Jenny, tries to introduce her to high society by pulling strings to get Jenny crowned queen of the Mardi Gras which ends up disastrously when the elite of society are infuriated with her presence, and Jenny plans to find another way. When Alan Alderson, a drunken and single owner of an aging plantation known as “The Shadows” loses a large amount in Jenny’s casino, she agrees to cover the losses if he will marry her. Jenny sees the marriage as a way to a prominent name in high society. Alan reluctantly agrees, despite the furious objections of his family, and Jenny gives up her stake in the Memphis Belle, which she allows to perish in a fire. Jack is dismayed by Jenny’s decision, but due to his feelings for her, stays close by to help her. Alan’s sister Julia, however, is unwilling to allow Jenny to invade her family home and devises a series of plots to get rid of her, including spreading gossip, trying to persuade members of high society to spurn a ball that Jenny is throwing and finally culminating in a plot to poison and kill Jenny with a drink. Julia’s plots are mostly thwarted through Jack’s influence, but when Alan drinks the poisoned drink Julia made for Jenny, Jenny is accused of murdering him. Julia’s sister Katherine knows that Julia accidentally poisoned her brother, but succumbs to threats from Julia to commit perjury and lie on the witness stand, resulting in Julia’s conviction. Shortly thereafter, Katherine yields to the guilt of covering for her murderous sister, and comes clean, clearing Jenny of the crime. Jenny comes to the conclusion that she has had enough of high society and returns to Jack and marries him.
Notes: Although John Wayne stars in Lady For a Night, he was not the star, but the leading man in this romantic drama.
Joan Blondell worked very hard for Warner Bros. studios in the 1930’s, appearing in more films than any other actress, earning her the nickname of the “Warner’s Workhorse”. Originally when she arrived at Warner Bros. Jack Warner wanted Joan to change her name to Inez Holmes, but she refused.