Although Charley Kying has owned a casino for fifteen years, on one rainy night events and people seem to converge and threaten his family home and second home, his gambling house. After a doctor secretly diagnoses him with a severe heart condition and recommends that if he continues to subject himself to the daily stress of a professional gambler, he hasn't long to live. Later that day he's made to realize that he's been neglecting his faithful wife for years and abdicated his duties as father to his son, who resents his father's unsavory reputation and rebuffs his interest in attending that night's prom. Charley's weakling brother-in-law, who sponges off him by freeloading at home and cheating him out of petty cash as croupier, agrees to conspire with rival gamblers to cheat Charley out of thousands. Among the others who add stress to what would seem to be Charley's last night in the casino are a rich former girlfriend who proposes they renew their relationship, an old nemesis who's... Written by
Clark Gable's immediate post-war films were the weakest of any of the returning stars. For one thing, his wife had died; for another, unlike many of the other actors, he was in his forties. "Any Number Can Play" is a good example of the kind of movie he made. In it, he plays the owner of a gambling house who has developed angina pectoris and is advised to give it all up for a more peaceful life. His son hates him, one of his employees is stealing from him, and a gambler gets on a roll that threatens to bankrupt the house.
The stars - Gable, Alexis Smith, Audrey Totter, Darryl Hickman, Marjorie Rambeau, Wendell Corey, Frank Morgan, William Conrad et al. are not at fault, but the script of "Any Number Can Play" is. It's difficult to pin down what the film is actually about - one waits for a definitive clue either in the gambling house or at home. Is it about a dysfunctional family, a sick man, or the activities of a gambling establishment? Hard to tell, as the director, Mervyn LeRoy, seems to focus the film in all three directions.
Nevertheless, there are some exciting scenes, particularly Frank Morgan's gambling run. The acting is uniformly excellent, although Audrey Totter is wasted - she plays Alexis Smith's sister - and Mary Astor has what amounts to a cameo. Marjorie Rambeau stands out as a dowager who gambles at the club. Gable, however, is not just the nominal star but the true one. Ruggedly handsome with that beautiful smile, he is wonderful as the world-weary but compassionate Charley. He had such a great presence and charm - fortunately, the quality of his post-war films was to improve.
Dull patches but probably worth seeing for the acting.
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