Hackman, Reynolds and Minnelli Find Laughs Aboard the “Lucky Lady”

Written by Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (the team who also wrote the scripts for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and, um, Howard the Duck) 1975’s Lucky Lady is a fascinating blend of comedy, drama and adventure that is worth another look. The film stars Gene Hackman and Burt Reynolds as Prohibition-era rum-runners who partner with cabaret singer Liza Minnelli after her smuggler husband is killed, seizing a golden opportunity to enrich themselves by way of bootlegging in Southern California using the titular boat to transport their cargo up and down the coast. Of course, things don’t quite go as easily planned, and the trio find themselves dealing with problems caused by each other as well as mobsters who don’t take to kindly to them getting in on their action.

Bringing a touch of Old Hollywood to Lucky Lady is director Stanley Donen, who attempts to bring the same balletic grace he utilized in classics like Singin’ in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to the film’s often stunning set pieces. As for the leads, Hackman earns every cent of his rumored high salary, Reynolds delivers one of his usual scenery-chewing performances that became his trademark in the 70s, and Minnelli does the best with an underwritten part that feels like a flapper prototype for Huyck and Katz’s Willie Scott character from Temple of Doom. The film itself also features wild shifts in tone (something that is a trademark for the screenwriting pair), so if you like their other efforts, this one will be right up your proverbial alley. Audiences however stayed away when, following word that the production went over-budget, it finally was released in December of 1975. Critics weren’t exactly kind either. While not one of the decade’s best, Lucky Lady is packed with enough charisma and enjoyment for it to be considered a diamond in the rough, and more than worthy of two hours of your time.