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|Index||23 reviews in total|
Even when he adapts Dostoievski,Robert Siodmak's fondness for film noir
can be felt.In the first scene,when Fedor meets Pauline ,how not to
think of that scene in "the killers" when Swede sees Kitty for the
first time?In both films ,Ava Gardner is the femme fatale.Ditto for the
last scene in the pawn shop where you can see the reflections of the
crosses on the ceiling.
Fedor's motive is first love ,but little by little,he realizes he is actually in love with gambling,with the numbers.His desire for an "8 " is almost sexual;in the hotel,every number (the key number, etc) calls him to the casino.The depiction of the place where people are feverishly waiting for the stopping of the roulette is absolutely extraordinary.Gregory Peck gives a riveting performance as the gambler down on his luck,and Ava Gardner's beauty shines all along the film.The supporting cast is up to scratch: Melvyn Douglas is like a puppeteer (the scene when he pretends he can't find Ostrovsky's notes belongs to him); Frank Morgan as a fallen mathematic teacher and Agnes Moorehead as the owner of a seedy pawn shop make all their scenes count.Ethel Barrymore is so talented an actress she does not need any words (except "banco" ) to express her gambling fever.
Like this ?try these.....
"Le Joueur" Claude Autant-Lara 1958 another Dostoievski adaptation,inferior to Siodmak's version.
"lo scopone scientifico" Luigi Comencini 1972
"La dame de Pique" Leonard Keigel 1965
The people who are raking this little gem over the coals must either 1)
really like movies; 2) have seen the film on a bad videotape; or if we
to be generous, 3) be having a bad day.
I just came from a screening of a beautiful 35mm print, and I loved it! LOVED IT! Granted, the Christian allegory is laid on a bit thick at times, but the performances are wonderful, and the story will resonate with anyone mature enough to have grappled with his/her own dark side. It's a story of sacrifice and redemption, truly a battle writ large between good and evil.
I also highly suspect that Jacques Demy's BAY OF ANGELS (1963) is an homage to this film. Both use the casino as an apt metaphor for Hell, and in both films, characters are saved by love.
Siodmak is one of the great, underrated filmmakers of the 1940s, and while I don't like this film quite as much as his films noirs (The Killers, Criss-Cross) or his other masterful period drama, The Spiral Staircase, I do think The Great Sinner will satisfy anyone who appreciates the classical Hollywood style.
I think a lot of people are looking at this movie like the Twilight
Zone episode called "The Fever." They want a short little story about
gambling addiction, The End.
I prefer to look at this movie like a "Shakespeare in Love" for Dostoevsky. It has so many little hints about his faith, seizures, and influences on his books. A fan of all his works will catch the obvious inferences (like the ax and the pawn shop, and the scenes straight out of the Gambler). But there are a lot of subtle references to the Idiot and the Brothers Karamizov. The title "The Great Sinner" is a reference to Dostoevsky's planned final works (which included the Bros. K.) but he was unable to finish it. Anyone who is put off by the "heavy handed" religious message of the film obviously has no idea how religious Dostoevsky was. His books are full of redemption by Christ. I think this movie was great. Peck played the part very well. He wasn't supposed to be Alexi from the novel, he is the author. The gambling scenes are intense enough to turn your stomach.
This is a sumptuously-staged costume drama, the kind Hollywood always did so
well. Only there's a dark side to "The Great Sinner", as the richness of the
production begins to coexist with sordid tales of gambling addiction and
related human tragedy that soon unfold. No one is immune here; even stolid
Gregory Peck falls to the lure of the cards, and hard. Ethel Barrymore is
subtly wonderful, as ever, and steals every scene. This becomes a powerful,
suspenseful film with a fine cast and a relentless tale to tell. Not to be
Well, if it has Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Melvyn Douglas, Walter Huston, Ethel Barrymore, Frank Morgan, and Agnes Moorehead, I'm there. But the fact is, this costume epic aims for the grandeur and tragedy of 19th century European literature without laying the groundwork. It's a listlessly plotted gambling melodrama, with Noble Writer Peck succumbing to the charms of Gambling Lady Gardner (and she was never more luscious), then reversing roles with her as he becomes addicted to the roulette wheel and she comes to her senses. Some lively bitch-dialogue from Christopher Isherwood helps, and the starry supporting cast contributes incisive miniatures; Barrymore, who pops in 90 minutes into the running time, is a special hoot, subtler and less grand than usual. But as so often happens in late-'40s Hollywood, the production values are stultifying, and a God-will-provide fadeout is tacked on to provide Moral Redemption where there logically should be none. It's a painless two hours, and good for stargazing -- but hardly the serious look at a decadent aristocracy it might have been.
Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Walter Huston, Melvyn Douglas, Ethel
Barrymore, and Frank Morgan star in "The Great Sinner" about a writer
who gets the gambling bug big-time. Set in the 1860s, the story
concerns a writer (Peck) who falls for a woman (Gardner) whose life,
and that of her father's (Huston), is dedicated to gambling. They're
waiting for the matriarch of the family (Barrymore) to die so that they
will no longer be beholden to the owner of a casino (Douglas). He has
200,000 (francs, I think) of the father's notes, and in return, he
wants Gardner. One can hardly blame him - she's so gorgeous in this
movie, and her costumes so stunning, she nearly burns up the celluloid.
The writer tries his hand at gambling and soon becomes a complete
The gambling scenes in this film are quite exciting, as anyone who has tasted the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat at a slot machine will attest. Unfortunately, other than that, it's a rather talk-heavy movie without much action and seems to go on too long. Nevertheless, there are some good performances. Was Walter Huston ever anything but great? Peck is handsome and convincing as the fallen man. Agnes Moorhead has a small part, but she's excellent, as the nasty owner of a pawnshop. Frank Morgan also makes an appearance as an unlucky gambler.
Worth seeing for Gardner's looks and gowns alone.
Perhaps it's his fine acting, his delivery style or his distinguished good looks. Whatever it is, Gregory Peck had displayed it in all his films. Here is one of his best, called " The Great Sinner. " If you've read Dostoyevsky's novel 'the Gambler', penned in 1867, you will have a pretty good idea where the movie came from. It's the story of a successful young writer named Fedja (Gregory Peck) who, while traveling through Europe, meets and is immediately struck by Pauline Ostrovsky (Ave Gardner) the daughter of a retired General. Through her, he discovers, she and her father are in great debt to the Casino owner, Armand de Glasse (Melvyn Douglas). Once in love, he realizes there is only one way to win her and that's to pay off her family's notes. With great but innocent naiveté he cautiously enters the world of gambling and is surprised by his extraordinary luck when he continues to win, win and eventually break the bank. Believing he can quit, he begins making plans to wed and move to the countryside. Unfortunately as most gamblers realize there is a subtle, yet, powerful addiction to winning and slowly it compels him to return to the alluring and enticing realm of the roulette wheel. This early Black and White movie is nearly a forgotten Classic of Peck's early career and were it not for his co-stars like, Walter Huston, Ethel Barrymore, Agnes Moorehead and Frank Morgan, it may have remained in obscurity. Instead, this wonderful, (albeit lengthy) and dramatic film has become a milestone for Gregory Peck and one which created an enduring legacy for this great actor. ****
As Kirk Douglas's career was progressing nicely he had a choice of two
different offers. He could play the title role in The Great Sinner, a
big MGM film with a supporting cast of name players with Ava Gardner as
a leading lady. Or he could do a small independent film for Stanley
Kramer who was just starting out. Douglas chose the small film and
wound up with an Oscar nomination for Champion.
Which left Gregory Peck who was apparently a second choice to play the Russian writer who stops off at the gambling resort of Wiesbaden in the 1860s just before German unification. He's on his way to Paris, but one sight of Ava Gardner getting off at Wiesbaden, makes Peck decide to abruptly change his plans.
As for Ava, certainly one can understand that she's beautiful enough to let one's hormones take over, but I got the feeling Ava just wasn't into the part really, as Greg was also not. It's also hard to believe that Walter Huston had won an Oscar for his previous film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. To overcome a trite story, Huston overacts outrageously, pulling everything out of a ham's bag of tricks.
Even Melvyn Douglas as the scheming casino owner takes his nineteenth century villainy from the Snidely Whiplash tradition. Agnes Moorehead as the old crone of a pawnbroker also indulges in some scenery chewing, her best example of that since Dark Passage.
Best in the film in my humble opinion is Frank Morgan as the former mathematics professor and now addicted gambler. He brings a real aura of tragedy to his small role.
The Great Sinner is a sluggishly paced film with a lot of very talented people just going through the motions. For a gambling story, I'll take Casino.
Don't believe me, Wanna bet?
This little-known gem is well worth checking. The fantastic script by Christopher Asherwood (one of the enfants terribles of the english literature of the 20th century) has some of the finest and memorable lines of the classic cinema. Ava Gardner never been so gorgeous. One cannot help feeling disturbed as the events go on, and the film is somehow unusual for the time for its moral and the pessimism it portraits. Definetely, Robert Siodmark's best. The allegorical final scene surely added by the studio is a real pity. After all we've seen, one can hardly find any hope in that universe, with or without the interceeding of God.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First, if you believe that the body is all that you are, trust me, you will share the critics' view of this dark tragedy as 'depressing and bleak.' Yet, the beauty is the purification of the Spirit of a deeply misanthropic author who views all about him with the deepest, estranged contempt. Fedya meets Pauline and is fascinated by her immediately. She pulls him into the casino town where her father is hopelessly in debt to the human tarantula, Armand, who runs his casino with meticulous malevolence. Armand fancies Pauline and has allowed her father to dig himself a hole from which the only extrication is selling his daughter to the Machiavellian monster. Fedya watches the scene dispassionately at first, though he tries to liberate his incarnated future, in Frank Morgan, who shows him the fate that soon will be his. Morgan uses the money that would have liberated him for one last chance at Fate. Upon failing, we hear the gunshot; Fedya's contempt is the essence of understanding the thematic core of the movie. Watch for the scene where Pauline makes the mistake of asking Fedya what he thinks of her. With a kind smile upon his face, Fedya dissects her coldly with amiable contempt and disgust. There is no malevolence here, though Pauline winces from the cruelty of his delineation of her.
Fedya is drawn to free her from Armand who has already sized him up for his doom. Just a slight delay in giving the promissory notes is sufficient for Fedya to return to the tables leading to his destruction. Armand has, secreted amongst the gamblers, a predatory lender who gives you a pittance for your valuables. The descent into the abyss occurs quickly, Fedya is forced to visit Agnes Morehead who plays a giant human vulture laughing and mocking your fate to your face as the cruelest pawn shop owner you will ever meet. The hardest scene to bear is where Fedya gambles his literary past, present and future away in a game of high card with the sadistic Armand. You will never believe this is the same actor who played the deeply moral Homer in Hud. Here, Douglas is a master of destruction sizing up each casino patron for just the right moves that lead to their obliteration. Peck was a deeply religious man (The Omen), this movie is no exception. On the surface, it is an expose of how gambling's effect upon a person is an unknown variable that many learn the hard way.
I love the movie for its core is existential purification, redemption and transcendence. To truly love the movie, pair the arrival of misanthropic Fedya with his powerful death scene. As he tells the incredulous doctors that he has seen Christ coming for him, at the very end, the windows fly open blowing the pages of his final book, The Great Sinner, about the room. His Spirit is freed and purified as it flies through the wind in one of the most powerful death scenes on film. He lost everything materially, my friends, but he gained everything of value. As the wind blows open the windows, his eyes close and he is freed from his suffering. The movie's point is his hatred and contempt for other people is purged as he shares their great sufferings. The condescending arrogance that he was filled with departs from his purified body. Peck's performance is one of his very best, his existential plummeting into penury is not pleasant to watch. Gardner and Huston but, especially, Melvyn Douglas are all excellent here. Yes, as someone who watched three people die, He does come for them when the body's destruction is near. The ending is the point of the movie, if you grasp the purpose of his suffering, you will not find it so hard to bear. The darkness of the movie doomed it but always has it been misunderstood. A Beautiful Story Of Someone Who Loses All But His Spirit Is Redeemed. It Passes Beyond Us Into The Wind: Into Geist Blown To The Light. A Masterpiece. Q.E.D.
"Do Not Go Where There Is A Path, Go Instead Where There Is None And Leave A Trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Tears Are Prayers Too. They Travel To God When We Can't Speak." Psalms 56:8
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