River Lady (film)

River Lady is a 1948 American Technicolor Western film directed by George Sherman and starring Yvonne De Carlo and Dan Duryea. It was filmed on the Universal Studios Backlot.[2]

River Lady
Directed byGeorge Sherman
Produced byLeonard Goldstein
Screenplay byD.D. Beauchamp
William Bowers
Based onnovel by Houston Branch and Frank Waters
StarringYvonne De Carlo
Dan Duryea
& Rod Cameron
Music byPaul Sawtell
CinematographyIrving Glassberg
Edited byOtto Ludwig
Universal Pictures
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 14, 1948 (1948-05-14) (United States)
  • May 20, 1948 (1948-05-20) (New York City)
  • June 1948 (1948-06) (Los Angeles)
Running time
78 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million[1]


In the 1870s, in a logging town on the Mississippi River, a conflict exists between the people of a mill town and the lumberjacks who work downriver. Romance and deceit are catalyzed by the arrival of the gambling riverboat, River Lady, owned by a beautiful woman called Sequin.

Bauvais, a representative of the local lumber syndicate and Sequin's business partner, is trying to convince H.L. Morrison, the mill owner, to sell his business. Morrison refuses, and Sequin eventually buys part of the struggling business in order to provide a reputable job for her boyfriend, Dan Corrigan, a lumberjack.

Dan eventually takes the job and he and Sequin become engaged. But, when Dan discovers that Sequin manipulated Morrison into giving him the job, he gets drunk and marries Stephanie, Morrison's daughter. Sparks fly between Morrison's business and Sequin's syndicate instigated by a vengeful Dan.

In the following battle, Bauvais is killed and Dan is shot. After the battle, Sequin visits a healing Dan and asks to get back together (Dan and Stephanie are separated). Dan tells Sequin he has actually fallen in love with his wife and wants to stay with her. On her way out of town forever, Sequin tells Stephanie that Dan wants her thereby reuniting the couple.



The film was based on a novel by Houston Branch and Frank Waters. Film rights were bought by Universal in March 1941 for a reported $50,000 plus 10 cents for every copy sold over 70,000. The sale was done even before the novel had been written, simply on the strength of its synopsis. The rights were purchased for the Frank Lloyd production unit at Universal, and the film was not able to be made until three months after publication of the novel.[3] Lloyd wanted to make it with Loretta Young.[4]

The novel was published in 1942, the New York Times calling it a "first rate story with no apparent marks of collaboration on it."[5]

When Lloyd left the studio, Universal kept rights to the novel. In 1946 the project was re-activated when it was assigned to producing-writing team of Michael Fessier and Ernest Pagano. They said the stars would be Yvonne de Carlo and Rod Cameron, who had just appeared in Fessier-Pagano's Frontier Gal (1945).[6]

The Hollywood Reporter reported that Ann Blyth was originally cast in River Lady, probably as "Stephanie Morrison," Helena Carter's character. DeCarlo and Duryea had previously appeared together in the Universal film Black Bart, also directed by Sherman. According to Universal press materials, the boat used in River Lady was originally built in 1929 for the silent version of Show Boat.[7]

Filming started April 1947.[8] Shot in Technicolor the film was one of Universal's most expensive productions of the year.[1]

Although set in 1870s Minnesota, the film mentions dynamite several times, and one character is shown using it. Dynamite was not invented until 1867.


Universal announced they would team Duryea and de Carlo in a third film, Christmas Eve at Pilot Butte but it was never made.[9]


  1. "109-Mill Techni Sked". Variety. 18 February 1948. p. 14.
  2. 'RIVER LADY' TYPICAL Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 08 July 1948: 23.
  3. Charles Boyer Will Appear in 'Appointment for Love' -- 'Chamber of Horrors' Opens Here Today By DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]15 Mar 1941: 13.
  4. HOLLYWOOD JOTTINGS: Cameras Finally Turn on Anglo-American Charity Film -- Capra-Chaplin Combine? By DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL HOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]25 May 1941: X3.
  5. On the Mississippi: loIVl LADI. By ttoton Brancl and Frank Watr. 374 pp. New York: Farrar & Rinettart. Inc. $2.0. Wallace, Margaret. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]22 Mar 1942: BR22
  6. UNIVERSAL PLANS 'RIVER LADY' FILM: Fessier and Pagano to Handle Movie Based on Novel-- Four Named to Cast Of Local Origin Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 04 Oct 1946: 16.
  7. TCM Movie Database
  8. Fessier and Pagano to Do 'Bloomer Girl' Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 23 Mar 1947: B2.
  9. DRAMA AND FILM: 'Viva Zapata!' Readied; Big Outwester Slated Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]22 Sep 1947: A2.
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