Cast & Crew
Irish American Dan Corrigan lives the hard life of a lumberjack in the isolated lumber camps along the Mississippi River of the 1850s. At winter's end, when the river ice breaks, he and his fellow lumberjacks rejoice, as they can finally move their logs and spend their wages in the upriver town. The townspeople, however, are not so thrilled, as the loggers are known for tearing up the town each spring. Meanwhile, Beauvais, the crooked representative of a lumber syndicate, is putting pressure on a local mill owner, H. L. Morrison, to sell his business. "The River Lady," a gambling ship, soon arrives in town from New Orleans, with its proprietor, the beautiful and wealthy Sequin, aboard. Although she is partners with Beauvais, Sequin is desperately in love with Dan, from whom she has been separated for six months. Upon reuniting with him, the ambitious Sequin proposes that they marry and Dan go into business with her, but he refuses, saying she must accept him for what he is, not what she wants him to be. Unknown to him, Sequin then purchases 49% of Morrison's struggling business, on the condition that Dan be put in charge. Dan, however, is told by the mill owner that he is being offered the new position out of gratitude for Dan's defense of Morrison and his daughter Stephanie, who were attacked earlier at the docks by Swede, a fellow logger. After Dan turns down the job, Sequin tricks him into a crooked game of poker, with his new job as the stakes. Beauvais warns Sequin, however, that once she turns Dan into a gentleman, he may want a real lady, not her. Dan quickly takes to his new job, and within a few months, he revives the Morrison business. Once again, Sequin proposes marriage, and this time Dan accepts. Their engagement is short-lived, however, as Stephanie tells Dan how Sequin got him his new job. An upset Dan then gets drunk and marries Stephanie. In order to keep Morrison's business afloat against Sequin's syndicate, Dan organizes a combine with the other independent mill owners. In order to break the new combine, Sequin and Beauvais deplete their lumber camps by offering the loggers double their current wages. When Dan tries to stop them, he is nearly beaten to death by Beauvais and Swede. Seemingly defeated, Dan gets into a drunken stupor until Mike Riley, his best friend, suggests that they "shanghai" logging crews with the help of saloon keeper Ma Dunnigan. The next morning, Dan convinces the hung over lumberjacks to keep working for him in exchange for a percentage of the combine's gross. Knowing that Dan has posted a cash forfeit against delivery, Beauvais causes a log-jam, then attacks Dan's lumberjacks with his own. In the ensuing battle, Dan is shot and Beauvais is killed when the jam is dynamited. Recuperating at Ma Dunnigan's, Dan is visited by Sequin, who claims no knowledge of Beauvais' murderous plans. She asks if they can get back together, as he and Stephanie are separated, but Dan confesses that he has fallen in love with his wife. Leaving town for good, Sequin tells Stephanie that Dan wants her, and as the married couple are reunited, the river boat queen sails away.
Eddy C. Waller
Philip Van Zandt
Jack G. Lee
D. D. Beauchamp
Jack A. Bolger Jr.
Leslie I. Carey
Russell A. Gausman
D. S. Horsley
Joseph E. Kenny
He trusts me.- Sequin
He must have learned about women in kindergarten.- Beauvais
Stevie, behave yourself or I'm going to give you the worst spanking of your life.- Dan Corrigan
I might even like that.- Stephanie
According to Daily Variety, in March 1941, producer Frank Lloyd purchased the film rights to River Lady, an eighty-four page outline by Houston Branch, for $50,000. The material was later novelized by Frank Waters and published under the joint authorship of Branch and Waters in 1942. Hollywood Reporter later reported that Universal had purchased the rights to the novel in April 1946, intending it as the initial project for contract producers Michael Fessier and Ernest Pagano. It has not been determined if Fessier and Pagano contributed to the released film.
According to Hollywood Reporter, Ann Blyth was originally cast in River Lady, probably as "Stephanie Morrison," the part played Helena Carter. Performers Yvonne DeCarlo and Dan Duryea had previously appeared together in the 1947 Universal film Black Bart (see entry above), which George Sherman also directed. According to Universal press materials, the river boat used in River Lady was orginally built in 1929 for the silent picture Showboat (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.5020).