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|Index||23 reviews in total|
At first glance, the writers of this unusual Hollywood film took the characters, location, period and premise of Dostoyevsky's novel "The Gambler" and reworked them in outrageous fashion in order to bring even more sex, moralizing guilt, titillation, debauchery and fun into the mix. It works and is very entertaining on that level. Anyone curious about the real thing might want to check out the French film "Le Joueur" by Claude Autant-Lara (1958), starring Gérard Philipe, which actually names it source, and its innumerable remakes. On the plus side, it gives Ava Gardner one of her most articulate roles and composer Bronislau Kaper a chance to incorporate a record number of light classics into his score.
Gregory Peck is one of my very favorite actors and if you were to skim
my reviews of his films, you'd find that I often praised his movies as
well as his wonderful acting. So, it is with deep regret that I say I
have found another one of his films that I just didn't like (the other
one that immediately comes to mind as well is his first film, DAYS OF
GLORY). Now this movie started off very well and sustained its energy
through the first half or so of the film. Seeing Peck fall for Ava
Gardner and the movie's exploration of the evils of gambling was very
interesting--though a bit heavy-handed. In particular, I liked the part
played by Frank Morgan in one of his last films. His broken and
dissipated gambling addict was heart-breaking and poignant.
However, the film just never knew when to stop. When Peck eventually gets the money to pay off Ava's and her father's gambling debts, I would have loved to see the movie end there. I would also have not minded if the movie had gone in the same direction it did--but had done it at a much faster and less tedious pace. Okay, having nice guy Peck save Gardner and her daddy from gambling only to be bitten by the gambling fever as well was interesting,...but not for another 30 or 40 minutes of the film--this portion of the film seemed to last hours!!! It was definitely a case of over-kill. Less would have definitely been more successful. But, instead, we are "treated" to watching Peck gamble again, and again, and again, ad nauseum. I can definitely see why this is one of Peck's lesser-known films. Take my advice and see him in any other film--it would be an improvement in most every case.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well, it bears little resemblance to Dostoyevsky's novel, it's the
closest that Gregory Peck has ever come to overacting, and it was a
flop at the box office, but I kind of liked it.
Peck narrates the story of a writer, a man of probity, who falls for a beautiful young woman, Ava Gardner, in the casino town of Wiesbaden. Except for some elegantly overripe dialog, that's about as close as it gets to an autobiographical account by the Russian novelist.
Peck's character doesn't gamble but he feels there's a story in the various addicts around the tables. Some of them gamble away everything they have and then shoot themselves. "Try to see that it doesn't happen at the table," says the ruthless manager, Melvyn Douglas.
Peck learns that Gardner is committed to marrying Douglas as a way of paying off her father's gambling debt. He throws a coin on the table and wins. He wins again. He continues to win until he has more than enough money to pay off the debt and take Gardner for himself.
Little did they know that tragedy lay just around the corner.
Peck has practically a suitcase full of bills, minus the ones stolen by Gardner's father, Walter Huston. The night before he and Gardner are about to run off together, Peck is gripped by the conviction that he can win still more. He loses it all. Then he pawns everything he owns, is thrown out of his hotel room and consigned to the servant's quarters, grows a stubbly beard and long hair, and, overall, begins to look like a bum.
He avoids everyone he knows and stumbles finally into a church. At first, in the shadows, he hears coins tinkling into the poor box and his eyes gleam. But, lo, an epiphany. As the heavenly chorus swells, he stares up at the beams of light spilling into the chapel and falls to his knees. What is money, after all? Just a piece of paper crawling with germs, as someone once observed. It ends with a reformed Peck nuzzling Gardner's oh-so-nuzzlable neck. Then they both starve to death. (Just kidding; this is an MGM movie.)
The cast is terrific. Peck has rarely been so animated. And when he's in the midst of his winning streak, he GRABS for the bills coming his way with a maniacal grin. Gardner is pretty. Walter Huston is pompous and a thief, thoroughly enjoyable. Ethel Barrymore makes a brief appearance. And Agnes Moorehead is the wicked crone of a pawn broker. The script has Peck in her shop, trying to pawn a religious icon that isn't his, and when she screeches insults, he begins to crawl towards a nearby axe. He's going to murder the old pawnbroker lady with an axe. The writers got their stories mixed up.
I don't know why it was such a failure. It's no masterpiece but the playing was decent, and the plot was involving.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This cannibalized version of Dostoyevsky's novel The Gambler under the
masterful hand of Robert Siodmak moves mightily throughout before it
collapsing under the sudden weight of heavy handed denouement.
Aspiring novelist Fejda (Gregory Peck) has a confident air about him as he boards a train that will take him to Paris. Sharing a compartment with Pauline Ostrovsky (Ava Gardner) he is soon bewitched by her and decides to stay in Wiesbarden to pursue her. Oststrovsky and her father both are addicted to gambling and their debts to a casino prevent her from leaving with Fejda. Fejda in the meantime develops an addiction and begins to spiral out of control.
Few if any film directors spoke cinema language as eloquently as the German born director Robert Siodmak. His noir cycle (especially Criss Cross, The Killers and Cry of the City ) are remarkable examples of form and content and while Sinner is not a noir it retains noir elements ideal to the downward thrust of the story line and its characters. In scene after scene Siodmak (ably assisted by distinguished cinematographer George Folsey) gives Sinner a healthy undercurrent of tension and suspense throughout with revealing compositions and startling close-ups. In one magnificent exposition shot Siodmak in under three minutes sums up the grandeur, the pitfalls, the types as well as the condescension of the self assured protagonist before the fall gracefully moving within the confines of the film's center stage, the casino.
The entire big name cast lives up to its billing though the leads are out shined by a sterling supporting group. Peck has some excellent mad scenes and Gardner's beauty is convincing enough in the early moments to persuade Fejda to pursue her but when she goes from bad to good (as she did in 55 days at Peking) she becomes less convincing. Melvyn Douglas, Walter Huston Frank Morgan, Ethel Barrymore and Agnes Moorehead (a pawnbroker whose shop is the setting for another Siodmak visual tour de force moment) are all in top form.
An intriguing side note to the performances are the way Siodmak (a Jew himself) portrays in a greedy and cynical light the films most obvious Jewish characters ( the pawnbroker and a vulture like jeweler, played unctuously by Curt Bois) four years after the end of World War Two. Suffice to say these characterizations today would have a hard time getting out of the editing room and when you combine the protagonist's Christian redemption (hokey but stunningly shot) Sinner finds itself somewhere between Judex and Maurice Chevalier's Gigi.
Still there is no denying the brilliant talent and command of the art form Siodmak possessed and in spite of its cop out ending The Great Sinner provides more than enough evidence to prove it.
There is little to no reasoning in this movie. We are supposed to
believe that Gregory Peck's character, supposedly an intelligent
writer, would throw away his entire life and future based on his
compulsion to gamble after his initial exposure to gambling. Would you
risk possibly losing the beautiful Ava Gardner to a spin of the
roulette wheel or the turn of a card? Uhmmm...not this cowboy.
Too many great actors in this film for it to be so average.......Ethel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Frank Morgan...When I think of the movie that could have been made with this cast I feel cheated by this movie. This is one of the few times I believe that Gregory Peck should have turned the script down. Like most Hollywood productions of the 1940's the sets and costumes are lush and believable. It's too bad that the plot didn't follow suit.
Given the trappings of a classic philosophical statement and discourse on
human nature, this well-intentioned miss offers, in the final analysis,
little more than a familiar love story and a cautionary tale about the evils
of gambling. The occasional allusions to matters of theology, morality,
fate and chance (including the pretentious title) are not enough to provide
formidable underpinnings to an essentially lightweight narrative concerning
the need for self-discipline.
The exceptionally beautiful woman, under the influence of her dissolute father, is, for all intents and purposes, for sale to the man who has the wealth and willingness to support them both. After a young writer who is enamored of her ruins himself spiritually and financially in trying to satisfy those requirements, she acknowledges their genuine love and restores the health of his soul. If this sounds unconvincing, it plays that way on the screen, too.
MGM's production values are impressive as always, but accepting as "continental" types the likes of Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner and Walter Houston requires a lively imagination. There are, however, memorable if brief appearances by an effectively subdued Frank Morgan, and by Agnes Moorehead. The less said the better about an abrupt, awkward segment featuring Ethel Barrymore.
This was a fantastic film with great actors all appearing in this very convincing plot with a great moral theme. Gregory Peck,(Fedja),"Old Gringo",'89 started out simply trying to become a writer and got himself caught in the Web of Gambling. Fedja meets up with Ava Gardner,(Pauline Ostrovsky),"The Barefoot Contessa",'54, who really becomes involved deeply with Fedja and tries to give him comfort in many ways. Ava Garnder was very young and extremely beautiful in this black and white film. Ethel Barrymore,(Grandmother Ostrovsky),"The Spiral Staircase",'46, played a very wise like aged owl character, who was very handy with the card games and could read peoples minds! Frank Morgan,(Aristide Pitard),"The Wizard of Oz",'39 along with Agnes Moorehead,(Emma Getzel),"Bewitched",'64 TV Series gave great supporting roles. Emma Getzel was a pawn broker in this picture and acted more like a WITCH and ran into big trouble with Fedja when he tried to pawn a medal which she did not care to purchase. If you love to see a great Cast of famous actors all in one picture, I am sure you will find it worth your WHILE!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Great Sinner", an MGM feature of 1949 was an adaptation of "The
Gambler" a novel by the great Russian writer Dostoievski. As conceived
for the screen, it had all the elements for it to succeed. Yet watching
it sixty years later, this effort directed by Robert Siodmak, a man who
gave us many satisfying moments at the movies, gives the impression
that perhaps he was the wrong man to have been at the helm.
Fedja, a writer, meets the gorgeous Pauline Ostrovsky on a train bound for Paris. It becomes evident she has cast a spell on him. That attraction will appear to be fatal as this young man decides on a whim to abandon his plans and get off at Wiesbaden, Germany, Pauline's destination. Unknown to him, she is a gambler, and so is her father, a Russian nobleman, General Ostrovsky.
Pauline is the object of the affection of Armand De Glasse, the owner of the casino in the city. What Fedja does not know is the way Pauline's connection to De Glasse is based on. She, and her father owe this man 200,000 francs, an enormous figure, in those days. Fedge, who is not into gambling decides to try his luck in the roulette table in order to win enough money to repay the Ostrovskys debt. That way, he figures he will be able to keep Pauline.
As he starts to gamble, Fedja begins losing almost everything he brought, then, as if by magic, he goes to break the bank, making more than what is owed. But Fedja, unable to keep his head, and his purse, goes back for more, which proves to be his downfall. He ends up poor, destitute and sick, and what is more, he begins losing Pauline, as well.
Gregory Peck, a good actor, is not at his best in the romantic lead of this film. Ava Gardner, a feast for the eyes, gives a flat performance. The two stars did not show a chemistry that one felt was believable. Most of the supporting cast, especially Frank Morgan and Walter Huston, practically overplay their parts. Even suave Melvin Douglas is not as effective as in other of his best creations. Ethel Barrymore and Agnes Moorehead, have some luck with their small time in front of the camera.
Robert Siodmak will still be remembered for films like "Criss Cross", "Cry of the City" and "The Killers", among others, but alas, not for this one.
Any person can change his behavior up to his degradation according to the circumstances, and this film is an evidence of it. One may have a normal life without difficulties, but one day that life is strongly changed by an unpredictable factor. That factor may be love, and those things which appeared to be non sense are becoming important, and the life's person is seriously shaken. Young then Gregory Peck stars this film in the role of the writer Fedja, probably Feodor as full name, while beautiful Ava Gardner, for me probably the three women most beautiful ever in Hollywood, co-stars as attractive Pauline Ostrovsky. The rest of the cast has excellent actors as Walter Huston, Melvyn Douglas and already old Ethel Barrymore. It is clear that the environment of the film is during the XIX century. The value of the film is in its morale, at that time gambling was like the nowadays drug, rich people used to be vicious of gambling. Love may also affect the
This film is ultimately unsatisfying because it comes to an ending as a romance, an unintended dark farce, a moral play on the evils of gambling, and a cinematic exploration of social disease. I was only interested in the romance between Peck and the beautiful Gardner. But this story line is thrown under the bus, run over, and dragged for another 40 minutes. The allure of gambling controls the last half of the movie as the only real character. Why waste the viewer's time building up a great cast only to leave them all for a boring cautionary tale? If this is in keeping with the source material, some artistic license would not have been out of line.
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