Mary Smith (Merle Oberon) has lead a dull life, surrounded by political friends of her presidential hopeful father, Judge Horace Smith (Henry Kolker). Her Uncle Hannibal (Harry Davenport) takes her to a gambling club for some excitement, which she gets when the club is raided by the police. The newspapers don't immediately connect her name to Judge Smith, but her father decides to send her to Palm Beach to avoid suspicion.

While there, her two maids, Katie Callahan (Patsy Kelly) and Elly (Mabel Todd), feel sorry for her and invite her to go on a blind date with them. She meets and is attracted to shy rodeo star Stretch Willoughby (Gary Cooper), but because she lacks experience, she has to use every one of the tricks which Katie and Elly have taught her to interest him. He begins to respond when she tells him a hard luck story about supporting her father and sisters while working as a maid.

The next day Stretch proposes and, though at first shocked by the idea, she follows him on a boat to Galveston. The captain marries them and all seems happy until Katie calls with the news that Mr. Smith will soon be in Palm Beach. Mary tries to tell Stretch about her deception, but she can't because of his views on the idle rich, and instead tells him that she has to return home briefly because of a family crisis. When she arrives home, her father is unhappy with her news and coerces her into acting as hostess for him for some important guests.

Meanwhile, Stretch becomes concerned when Mary doesn't return, and goes to Palm Beach. Arriving at the Smith home, he happens on their dinner party and discovers Mary's real identity. The dinner guests make fun of him, but his sincerity makes Mary realize how much she loves him. Uncle Hannibal also convinces Horace that his selfishness is taking away Mary's happiness. As Stretch arrives home in Montana, the entire Smith family is staying with his landlady, Ma Hawkins (Emma Dunn), and is trying to adapt to their new, simpler life.

Oscar
3 Nominations
1 Award
Best Sound

Golden Globes
0 Nominations
0 Awards
“The Cowboy and the Lady” is a virtual remake of an earlier Gary Cooper vehicle called “I Take This Woman” in 1931. Director Leo McCarey wrote the script in three days to pay off some overdue hospital bills. However, McCarey refused MGM's request that he direct the picture, stating he "wouldn't touch that crap." After a while, William Wyler, of all people, agreed to take the reigns, even though he thought the script was a mess.

After just one day of filming, Wyler and studio head Sam Goldwyn were at each other's throats. Wyler complained that he was working without a completed script" and Goldwyn, for his part, accused Wyler of doing too many re-takes and "wasting footage." So Wyler stomped off in a huff, and Goldwyn suspended him. MGM then went to H. C. Potter and asked him to direct the picture. Wyler would never return to finish “The Cowboy and the Lady”, but he and Goldwyn ultimately made up. The very next year, they successfully worked together on “Wuthering Heights”.

While the script is simple and the plot … well, traditional, the stars make this picture. It really was a shame that Merle and Gary never made another picture together. Their chemistry is adorable. “The Cowboy and the Lady” not only benefits from its on-screen talent but also from some of its off-screen talent. Gregg Toland contributes some outstanding black-and-white cinematography, particularly glamorous close-up shots of Merle, dreamy shots of the isolated Palm Beach mansion and beach, and a subjective camera shot of Gary waving farewell at Merle from the back window of a departing bus. Toland would go on to win the Oscar the following year for “Wuthering Heights” for best Cinematography.

The character actors were also memorable, with Fuzzy Knight and Walter Brennan playing the two rodeo blind dates. And Patsy Kelly is fantastic in her usual loud mouth, wisecracking character. My only concern with the script is Coopers constant use of the word “yup”. While it is a cliché that every cowboy uses the word, once or twice should have been enough to get the picture. However, Coopers script never lets up. But…. it’s Cooper. You still gotta love him.

“The Cowboy and the Lady” was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Original Song and Best Original Score, winning Best Sound for Thomas Moulton, who won one the previous year for “The Hurricane”.

This is a great ‘feel good’ movie with a traditional Hollywood ending. One I would highly recommend.