|Index||7 reviews in total|
Director Joseph Newman's "The Luckiest Guy in the World" is, quite simply, a
too-long neglected masterpiece of film noir. Like a previous poster, I, too,
saw this recently on Turner Classic Movies and it grabbed me right from the
beginning, a compelling story of an "average Joe" whose life spirals out of
control when he desperately needs money to pay off gambling
Baby-faced Barry Nelson, one of the screen's best portrayers of Mr. Nice Guy types, turns in a solid performance of a man caught in an inescapable trap of his own making. Also excellent, in the only other roles of any size, are Eloise Hardt as his long-suffering wife and Henry Cheshire as his sympathetic, unsuspecting boss. Max Terr's taut musical score is a plus, too.
Almost all the entries in MGM's "Crime Does Not Pay" series were good little crime dramas. Like many live-action shorts of the period, they served as a valuable training ground for promising writing, acting, and directing talents that the studio was trying to develop. "The Luckiest Guy in the World" is, far and away, the best, an outstanding short and a lost classic of film noir.
I just watched this excellent short earlier today on the turner classic movie channel as part of their 31 days of the Oscars. The Luckiest Man In The World was nominated for the Oscar of Best Short Subject, Two-reel Jerry Bresler in 1947. I'm not sure of what the other nominees were, but it is a shame it did not win the award. This short perfectly illustrates just how one's obsessing for the unreachable can easily dwindle into a downward spiral of unstoppable events eventually driving the person over the edge in an ironic twist of fate/pay back. Also, it has great characterization which enables the viewer to quickly sympathize the main character. This film has excellent pacing, not at all rushed or slow at any point. The short is simple, but gets its point across with utmost ease and beauty. If you happen to stumble across this one, count your lucky stars!
The Crime Does Not Pay short subjects were usually pedantic lessons on
the evils of crime and how the police inevitably get their man because
they've got science and good detective instincts on their side. This
last one of the series is one glorious exception, it could have been a
feature film. And as a short subject could have qualified for a
Twilight Zone episode.
Barry Nelson who had a much better career on stage than he did on film stars in The Luckiest Guy In The World. He starts out pretty unlucky because he's a compulsive gambler who picks losers all the time. Embezzlement leads to murder and what seems a successful cover-up. But only seems so because this guy did get away with the crime, but the ending is out of a Twilight Zone episode.
This short subject was nominated for an Oscar in that category, but lost to a short subject called A Boy And His Dog and do I have to tell you what that's about. Sentimental won out over the surreal that year.
Still this short subject is one of the best around.
"The Luckiest Guy in the World" is one of a series entitled "Crime Does
Not Pay"--and every one I've seen has been enjoyable and well made.
This particular one stars Barry Nelson who gets shot by accident when
the film begins! He begins thinking back about his life and you see
that Nelson was an inveterate gambler--a man in deep with his bookie.
So deep that he ends up gambling with his company's funds and ends up
destroying his life. How exactly this happens, I'll leave for you to
find out--but it is pretty dandy little film where there are many
interesting plot elements is a pretty cool twist--improbable to say the
least, but still pretty cool. Like the other films I've seen, well
worth your time and with very nice production values for a B-movie.
By the way, this was included on the DVD for "Ziegfeld Follies". This isn't surprising, as the audio for Red Skelton's skit about gin that you hear on the car radio is from a skit used in the film. Also, Nelson's boss is played by Milton Kibbee--the brother of familiar character actor, Guy Kibbee.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was the final entry in M-G-M's "Crime Does Not Pay" shorts series and this one's a doozy! Barry Nelson plays Charles Vurn as the ironic title character. How ironic? Well, after losing bet after bet and not doing so well at his job, and after accidentally killing his wife when she confronts him stealing her savings inherited from her mother, his landlord comes by and gives him a thousand dollar check from selling a house suggested by his wife, his next horse bet wins but he can't claim it because he earlier switched identities with another man and had him crash his car over a cliff so "his" and his wife's death can be ruled accidents, and after retrieving a letter from his boss that he now doesn't want him to see, telling the police his "story", and claiming his winnings, he gets shot by a random shooter in the street as we end with him dropping his dice for the final fade out...Of all the shorts in the series that appeared in the DVD "Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light", The Luckiest Guy in the World most lives up to that category. What with the lighting, the atmospheric direction, and especially Nelson's performance, this has Film Noir written all over it! The only relief here is hearing Red Skelton on the radio as Nelson and his doppelganger are listening to it as the latter is laughing his heart out while driving. Otherwise, this is a tense thriller all the way! Well worth seeing. P.S. Barry Nelson is noted as the first person to play James Bond in a '50s TV version of "Casino Royle" and this short got an Oscar nomination as Best Short Subject-Two Reel of 1946.
Luckiest Guy in the World, The (1947)
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
The final entry in MGM's "Crime Does Not Pay" series seems more like a film noir than an actual film in the series but there's nothing wrong with that. Barry Nelson plays a compulsive gambler who has blown his rent money, stolen money from work and now needs money from his wife. She refuses and he accidentally kills her but this here sets off a string of good luck but of course his crime is eventually going to catch up with him. The "Crime Does Not Pay" series is one of my favorites and while this one here doesn't really feel like any of their previous films I'm okay with that because this is a very well made film that manages to have the look and feel of some of the best noirs of this period. Nelson does a very good job in the role of a loser who eventually catches a few breaks. He's totally believable as the man and really brings a lot to the character making him someone we can care about even though we don't like what he's doing. It's also worth noting that there's a comedian on the radio during one scene and this is none other than Red Skelton. This short received an Oscar-nomination, which it certainly deserved as this is one of the better examples of a noir in the shorts department.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is very interesting to notice that after almost a decade, this series of post film noir shorts ended just as that film genre was reaching its height. This is perhaps the closest to film noir in the series, only prevented from being true noir on the basis of its length. You can't explore all the darkness of humanity in 20 minutes, even with a confused anti- hero, here played by Barry Nelson. He's a gambling addict, obsessed with horse racing, and in a very short period of time, you see how it ruins Hus life. His own wife pays a great price for his problems and it isn't a pretty ending for him. An interesting structure also gives it an aggressive film noir feel. The series started off with a bang, and it certainly ends with one!
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