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Russian prince goes to Monte Carlo just after World War I with money supplied him by Parisian Russians. He wins but the casino operators want him honor the tradition of returning to the tables. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
'The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo' has a good script, mid-level production values and a fine performance by Colin Clive in a villainous role. The great theatre director Joshua Logan was peripherally involved in this film (without credit); his autobiography 'Josh' mentions his participation but does not discuss the movie in detail.
This movie got its title (and premise) from a once-popular music-hall song performed by the Englishman Charles Coborn (not the American actor Charles Coburn). Ronald Colman stars as a White Russian nobleman who has fled the revolution and now ekes out an existence in Monte Carlo. When he manages to break the bank at the casino, the casino directors are delighted: surely the publicity will bring more suckers (I mean gamblers) to the tables. But Colman gives an interview in which he acknowledges that his lucky streak was against the odds, and he warns others to save their money and stay away from the casino!
The casino directors try various stratagems to lure Colman back to the tables. Eventually they hire Joan Bennett to pretend to be romantically interested in Colman, planning to lure him back to the casino. (Surprisingly, Colman falls for this: he's just been widely publicised as a man with a potful of casino winnings, yet he assumes that Bennett is interested in him for himself.) It's no spoiler to reveal that she genuinely falls for him. But Colman doesn't know that Bennett has a husband: namely Colin Clive, who is becoming homicidally jealous...
Colman is good in this film, but Clive (in a smaller role) gives a better performance. There was a basic coldness to Colin Clive which made him more effective in sinister roles than in heroic ones. Bennett is bland in a predictable role. Nigel Bruce is good (as usual) in an atypical role as Colman's valet, a fellow Russian expat: wisely, Bruce does not attempt a Russian accent. A sequence in the Swiss alps (via 20th Century-Fox's backlot) is not very convincing. The photography is excellent, the editing and sound recording less so. Nunnally Johnson's sparkling dialogue is up to his usual standard. I'll rate this enjoyable film 7 out of 10.
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