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Johnny Mack Brown
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After waiter and would-be novelist Peter Stanislavsky marries Marcia, he learns to play bridge to satisfy his wife, despite feeling that it is a childish game. Her friends all play the game avidly, but argue often about the proper play. He's called one evening to serve as a waiter at a bridge party given by Lola Starr, but is asked to be a fourth for one of the bridge tables, where eminent bridge expert Cedric Van Dorn is seated. Peter trounces the expert, and when asked what method he uses to play, he jokingly says the "Stanislavsky method," which has no rules of bidding or play. It makes headlines; Speed McCann ghostwrites a best-selling book for him; a national tour is set up with Marcia as his partner; and his method sweeps the country. But slowly Peter begins to question Marcia's play, leading to arguments because it is a violation of the only rule in his system. And when he gives private lessons to Lola, Marcia leaves him thinking there is something between them. With his ... Written by
Arthur Hausner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Paul Lukas played a Russian intellectual making his living as a waiter in
"Grand Slam," directed by William Dieterle (1933). It is a surprisingly funny satire of the building up of celebrity. The waiter and the Russian restaurant's hat-check girl played by Loretta Young become America's sweethearts as bridge partners who do no squabble. With the aid of publicist and ghost-writer 'Speed' McCann (the wonderfully deadpan Frank McHugh) they become walking advertisements
for the "Stanislavsky system," a "system" of bidding whatever one feels like
(since bids are not rational, there is no basis for recriminations about their stupidity).
A duel with displaced bridge guru Cedric Van Dorn (sounds close to Goren, no? and I suspect the choice of the character's name "Stanislavsky" was also a slam at another kind of system), a puffed-up charlatan played very well by Ferdinand Gottschalk, is broadcast on radio stations across America like a prize-fight by Roscoe Karns (another great fast-talking deadpan comic actor of the 1930s).
The bridge players are even in a roped-off square, though the audience is
above them, unlike in boxing "rings."
The wide variety of American types prefigures the comedies of Preston Sturges, though for manufacturing celebrity, "Grand Slam" most calls to mind two better movies from the same (pre-Code) era with Lee Tracy playing fast-talking
publicists: "The Half-Naked Truth" and "Bombshell," but "Grand Slam" has its
moments, especially for anyone who has played bridge with serious point
Loretta Young was already a clothes horse. (To me, her face seems a bit long
and horsey, too. Another era's notion of beauty, I guess...) The movie
unfortunately all but drops Glenda Farrell, who plays McHugh's forgetful
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