IMDb > The Big Gamble (1931)

The Big Gamble (1931) More at IMDbPro »


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Octavus Roy Cohen (story)
Walter DeLeon (screen play) ...
Release Date:
4 September 1931 (USA) See more »
Unable to repay a substantial gambling debt to mob boss North, Alan Beckwith concocts a last-ditch scheme... See more » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
User Reviews:
Intriguing movie that could have been even better See more (5 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

William Boyd ... Alan Beckwith (as Bill Boyd)

James Gleason ... Squint

Warner Oland ... North

Dorothy Sebastian ... Beverly

Zasu Pitts ... Nora

June MacCloy ... Mae
William Collier Jr. ... Johnnie
Ralph Ince ... Webb
Geneva Mitchell ... Trixie
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Sidney Bracey ... Wedding Witness (uncredited)
Allan Cavan ... Police Dispatcher (uncredited)
Eddy Chandler ... Red - Gangster Driver (uncredited)
Joseph W. Girard ... Poker Player (uncredited)
Edward McWade ... Justice of the Peace (uncredited)
Jack Richardson ... Poker Player (uncredited)
Phillips Smalley ... Milk Fund Representative (uncredited)
Fred Walton ... Samuel - North's Butler (uncredited)
Eric Wilton ... Poker Player (uncredited)
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Directed by
Fred Niblo 
Writing credits
Octavus Roy Cohen (story)

Walter DeLeon (screen play) (as Walter De Leon) &
F. McGrew Willis (screen play)

Produced by
Harry Joe Brown .... associate producer
Charles R. Rogers .... producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
Arthur Lange (uncredited)
Cinematography by
Hal Mohr (photography)
Film Editing by
Joseph Kane (film editor)
Art Direction by
Carroll Clark 
Costume Design by
Gwen Wakeling (costumes)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
E.J. Babille .... assistant director (uncredited)
Sound Department
T.A. Carman .... sound engineer
Charles O'Loughlin .... sound engineer
Camera and Electrical Department
Adolph L. Schafer .... still photographer (uncredited)
Music Department
Arthur Lange .... musical director
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributors
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Additional Details

Also Known As:
65 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (RCA Photophone System)
USA:Passed (National Board of Review) | USA:TV-G (TV rating)

Did You Know?

Nora Dugan:I didn't mean to be protruding, but we've got to go.See more »
Movie Connections:
Remake of Red Dice (1926)See more »


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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful.
Intriguing movie that could have been even better, 13 January 2009
Author: mgconlan-1 from United States

"The Big Gamble" has one of the most provocative premises ever cooked up for a movie. World-weary gambler Alan Beckwith (William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd in a surprisingly despairing modern-dress role) is tired of life. Owing $5,000 to the sinister Andrew North (Warner Oland) and $2,500 to a former servant, Beckwith cooks up the idea of having North take out an insurance policy on his life, then killing himself. North insists that the policy be for $100,000; that a North-hired hit man do the actual killing (since if Beckwith commits suicide, the policy becomes invalid); that Beckwith live a year and a day after taking out the policy; and that Beckwith's wife be the beneficiary. When Beckwith protests that he doesn't have a wife, North supplies him one: Beverly Ames (Dorothy Sebastian), who's under North's influence because her brother Johnny (William Collier, Jr.) is also on the hook to him. The good news is in the striking performances of both leads - and of James Gleason and ZaSu Pitts as a comic-relief couple (though I have a hard time watching Pitts in comic roles without thinking of how Hollywood wasted her talent as a dramatic actress despite her incandescent performance as Trina in Stroheim's "Greed," which should have done for her what "Sybil" and "Norma Rae" did for Sally Field 50 years later) — and some intriguingly proto-noir compositions by cinematographer Hal Mohr.

The bad news is Fred Niblo's surprisingly slow, stodgy direction - by 1931 virtually no one was still having the actors pause between hearing their cues and speaking their own lines, but Niblo directs like it was still 1929 - Mohr's mostly plain, uncreative cinematography (which doesn't sustain the marvelous atmospherics of the opening scenes), and some dubious performances by the supporting players. William Collier, Jr. comes off way too queeny as Johnny - we can't muster much sympathy for someone this wimpy - and Warner Oland, though playing a character with an Anglo name, inexplicably not only wears his Charlie Chan makeup but speaks in his Charlie Chan voice. Though a previous silent version of this story was made, "The Big Gamble" really should have been filmed a third time in the 1940's; its plot would have been a natural for film noir.

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