The Lady Takes a Sailor (1949)

Jennifer “Smitty” Smith (Jane Wyman) is a consumer protection expert, head of the Buyer’s Research Institute. She’s just received news that she’ll be getting an endowment to allow her to continue her research, and decides to celebrate with an afternoon out on her boat.

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When the boat is capsized by a rising submarine, Smitty insists that the sub’s captain, who calls himself “Davey Jones” (Dennis Morgan), takes her on board and helps her safely back to shore.

“Davey” reluctantly agrees, and as they get to talking, he tells Smitty that he’s a zoologist studying sea creatures. Ever the truth hunter, Smitty begins to suspect he’s lying, since he doesn’t seem to actually know much about marine life.

As it turns out, “Davey” is actually Bill Craig, a man working a secret government mission. To protect his secret, he gives Smitty sleeping pills and leaves her on a nearby beach.

When Smitty is finally found by the Coast Guard, she shares her wild tale of an afternoon under the sea… but no one believes her, calling her truthful reputation into question and forcing the Tyson Institute to rescind her endowment. Can Smitty clear her name and save her institute?

The Lady Takes a Sailor was directed by Michael Curtiz. The screenplay was written by Everett Freeman from a story by Jerry Gruskin.

I’m a fan of both Jane Wyman and Dennis Morgan. They’re usually incredibly likable in their roles. This is true for Wyman here. Smitty is such a great character. She owns a research institute, snarks at businessmen for underestimating her, and is devoted to truth. (Her institute is decorated with large quotes to that effect: “TRUTH IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN TIME.” “TRUTH MAY BE ECLIPSED BUT NEVER EXTINGUISED.” “IN THE END TRUTH WILL CONQUER.”)

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Morgan, on the other hand, is quite a bit less lovable here than I’m used to seeing him. Sure, he’s on a top-secret mission, but that’s no excuse for him to drug Jennifer with sleeping pills and abandon her on a beach! Surely, a better solution could have been found.

Despite Bill’s faults, the film is still a lot of fun to watch. Smitty and Bill are trapped in an “under sea tractor” together early on in the film, which is one heck of a way to get acquainted, and also brings the opportunity for some neat “ocean views” outside of the sub’s windows.

Also a benefit to the film is Eve Arden, playing Smitty’s best friend. Arden and Wyman are delightful to watch together.

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The viewer feels plenty of sympathy for Smitty as no one believes the story of her underwater adventure. She goes on a misadventurous quest to clear her name, which brings plenty of laughs, and she shares some great snark and tension with Bill.

The Lady Takes a Sailor is, for the most part, a quirky and enjoyable lesser-known ’40s comedy. Recommended for fans of Jane Wyman in particular.

3 thoughts on “The Lady Takes a Sailor (1949)

  1. Don’t hate me for this, but when I read that Morgan drugged her and left her on the beach, I laughed! C’mon, it was a TOP SECRET mission! I love these types of comedies from the 1940s…a perfect way to spend a rainy evening indoors!


    1. Yeah, it was a top secret mission, but I was still shocked! I’m sure the government could have equipped him with some sort of gentle memory-eraser instead, haha. (But then, the movie couldn’t have played out in the fun way it did!) I love these comedies, too. Anything screwball or screwball-ish is good with me!


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