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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
A much underrated film from the late forties, it features a middle-aged Clark Gable as the owner of a gambling house, where he plays host to a variety of colorful characters. The plot is fairly foolish but at least two of the actors, Barry Sullivan and Wendell Corey, are quite good, and cast somewhat against type.
Mervyn LeRoy directed, and either he or the studio bosses decided that the characters would scarcely venture out of doors for the entire run of the picture. As a result we get to explore the casino, Gable's office and home, a restaurant, a hallway, and a few other places, most of them nicely paneled and well appointed, with no sense of urgency regarding action, as we know that the next scene will also be indoors, perhaps upstairs this time, where we will have an opportunity to observe a lamp or a fine mahogany desk. LeRoy moves his people around nicely, and wisely emphasizes the film's geographical limitations (agoraphobic? agoraphilic more likely)--one might even say he revels in them.
There's no sense of reality to the story, which is never the least bit convincing. Yet it has a kind of authority, due largely to the admirable professionalism of the people responsible for giving the film its look. One never mistakes such Hollywood stalwarts as Frank Morgan, Marjorie Reambeau or Lewis Stone for real people. William Conrad, in a small role as a hold-up man, does not seem the least bit menacing. I found myself smiling when he turned up. Good old Cannon.
Yet for all its faults the movie has going for it something that many a larger budgeted and more realistic film doesn't have: it is watchable. One likes the people in it. There's a confidence in the way it's done; and a fine sheen to the finished product. While it fails at drama and psychology, it succeeds in being an extremely well-crafted piece of work.
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