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Akim Tamiroff plays the title role in King Of Gamblers and truth be
told the way Tamiroff does it, it ain't gambling. He's a racketeer who
places slot machines in venues not necessarily willing to have one. The
film opens with a bomb thrown into a barber shop which has replaced
Tamiroff's machine with another mob's. Some kids playing outside the
shop are killed and the heat goes on.
But that's nothing compared to the heat that nightclub singer Claire Trevor brings to Tamiroff. She's been going out with him and he's set her up real nice in a swank apartment. But the death of Helen Burgess, Trevor's former roommate along with Harvey Stephens the guy Burgess married who was involved in Tamiroff's rackets sets her on a quest for vengeance. Trevor is aided and abetted by Lloyd Nolan a crusading reporter for Porter Hall's newspaper.
During the late Thirties and early Forties Tamiroff was under contract to Paramount and played some really good villains and cutthroat types although he could do comedy as well. In King Of Gamblers he's one crafty dude and his fall from power was quite accidental.
One thing that was haunting was Helen Burgess's death scene, it was eerie in its prescience. Burgess did only four films for Paramount and later in 1937 she died of lobar pneumonia. Seeing her on her deathbed was unintentionally kind of freaky. There's a story with Burgess that needs telling, I believe she was the inspiration for the dead actress played in flashback by Valli in Miracle Of The Bells.
King Of Gamblers is a nicely paced B crime drama from Paramount which could have used some better editing. Still a good cast delivers the goods.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILERS: Akim Tamiroff, Paramount's resident crime lord, runs all the illegal gambling activities in a major city. Reporter Lloyd Nolan struggles to get the goods on Tamiroff, but runs up against a stone wall until he meets sexy but tough nightclub singer Claire Trevor (obviously dubbed). Trevor is anxious to avenge the death of her innocent sister (Helen Burgess), who was done in by Tamiroff's henchmen. Though only a "B" picture budget, King of Gamblers was given "A" treatment by director Robert Florey. The film was part of an unofficial Paramount series based on the FBIs J. Edgar Hoover book Persons in Hiding.
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