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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
Believe it or not, Any Number Can Play was one of the few non-musicals produced by Arthur Freed over at MGM. To show you it was a Freed film, please note that the background music includes such Freed tunes as This Heart of Mine and Should I.
Richard Brooks who would soon get a big directing break in another Freed produced non-musical, Crisis, wrote a very fine story that Mervyn LeRoy directed with class and finesse. LeRoy got a stellar cast together and really mixed the ingredients well.
Clark Gable is perfect as an aging gambler with a lot on his plate. He's just been told by Dr. Leon Ames that he's got angina pectoris and for the sake of his health he'd better give up a very high stress profession. He's got a loving wife in Alexis Smith and a rebellious teenage son in Darryl Hickman who he barely knows. Living with them is her sister Audrey Totter and her husband Wendell Corey. Gable employs Corey at his gambling establishment where Corey does a little chiseling on the side and he's also into racketeers Richard Rober and William Conrad for some big bucks. They've got ideas how to cancel the debt. And Totter measures her own husband against Gable and finds Corey quite wanting.
That's just in his own household. Gable's got a lot of friends and enemies playing at his high class establishment which the police all know about, but do nothing because half the town's establishment is in the place on a given night. Such habitués might include Frank Morgan, Marjorie Rambeau, and Mary Astor a divorcée also carrying a huge torch for MGM's king.
The story involves all these issues and how they're resolved over one 36 hour period. What makes Any Number Can Play such a good film is that even the smallest characters do have their moments. Art Baker plays the owner of a country club where Hickman gets in a fight over his father. Note how in his brief moments, Baker tries oh so hard to keep Gable out of it when he discovers who Hickman is. Astor has only one real scene, but it's a beauty involving Gable having an angina attack and then with minimal dialog the two of them talking about a lost love of many years ago. Staged brilliantly, I might add.
One thing about Any Number Can Play that is frighteningly real are those angina attacks, remembering just how Gable died as the result of doing some very high stress stunt work on The Misfits. Absolutely eerie.
Any Number Can Play is one of Gable's best post World War II films and not to be missed by any of his fans. And if you're not a Clark Gable fan, you might become one after seeing this.
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