Any Number Can Play (1949) Poster

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Even The House Loses If It Plays Long Enough
bkoganbing29 June 2007
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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Gable ages well in this family drama
MartinHafer18 March 2006
I like that Clark Gable plays the logical extension of the characters he so often played in the 1930s and 40s. So often he played the likable rogue who made his living just skirting the border between good and evil--playing gamblers, mercenaries or con-men. However, in each film you almost never see what this same character would have been like had the film followed him into mid-life. Well, ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY is such a film. Gable plays an older rogue who owns a gambling house but also has a wife and older son. And, instead of being firmly in control of his life, you can see it slowly crumbling--at least around the edges. This role took some guts to play as he was more vulnerable and Gable COULD have just continued playing "fluff roles". Give it a try and see an adult drama.
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Too many numbers are played
jjnxn-120 March 2014
Not a great film but a very entertaining one with some wonderful performances from a cast of pros.

Gable holds the spotlight effortlessly as the gambling house owner at a crossroads ably assisted by some of the best character actors working at MGM at the time. Used as both a launching pad for some actors just starting out, Wendell Corey and Barry Sullivan, and a chance to see many wonderful character actors with years of experience, Lewis Stone, Frank Morgan etc. all get their moment in the spotlight.

It's hard to pick best in show with so many marvelous players but some that stand out are: Mary Astor is a nice cameo as a lonely woman with a longstanding yen for Clark who through the years has settled for friendship. Both Stone and Morgan add pathos to their individual roles as does Audrey Totter as Alexis Smith's worn down sister. Marjorie Rambeau is an absolute joy as a rambunctious dowager who swoops right in and steals her scenes without breaking a sweat. Lastly Alexis Smith who often was wasted in decorative roles bites into her role as Gable's tough wife. She initially seems a complacent and docile homebody but when the chips are down she emerges as somewhat of a tigress in a terrific performance.

As might be apparent from the long list of excellent work turned in, the film has many plot lines; really too many and that's its main weakness. Director Mervyn LeRoy juggles all the various happenings effectively but a bit of trimming would have sharpened the film's focus.
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A Lesson in Life from Clark Gable
JLRMovieReviews23 July 2013
Clark Gable is a casino owner who has tried to give all he can to his wife and son, but maybe all they needed was his time. Alexis Smith and Dwayne Hickman is his wife and son, and the movie is peppered with great supporting actors like Frank Morgan, Wendell Corey, Mary Astor and Marjorie Rambeau. The film begins rather slow, but is rewarding to those who like character studies and get into family dynamics. This seems to be the type of film that doesn't rely so much on active plot but on the way the characters relate to each other, which in some ways, puts it ahead of its time. While others may find fault with the film and I do admit it has its faults, I thoroughly enjoyed it and appreciated what it was trying to convey, that in life we have to give a second chance not only to others but also to ourselves. A new beginning is always the best perspective. Watch Any Number Can Play and see what you get out of it.
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A film to convince skeptics of Gable's talent
danielj_old9998 July 2006
One of the great opening scenes of any Hollywood movie projects a kind of cinematic/theatrical authority in a league with O'Neill or Odets, first we see the black man, filled with jolly self denial, buffing the crap tables, his tragedy is implicit from the first moment, believing in his heart that he is on a social par with the other white employees... and with quick, methodical grace the other supporting characters are sharply introduced - they're waiting for lefty, or godot,or the Iceman, or their savior,who happens to be Gable in one of his greatest roles...this is the refined essence of that great personality on screen...the man could simply manufacture chemistry not only with his leading ladies but with other men as well...too bad the crisp, exciting climax at the crap table does not quite live up to this glorious existential opening but it's still an eminently enjoyable Hollywood wrap of the most underrated MGM movies.
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Acting master class by Lewis Stone
dkjj7722 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Well worth watching, especially for the star turn by veteran Lewis Stone as the struggling Ben Snelerr. A consummate lesson in reacting instead of "acting." Brilliant.

Some other great performances from a top cast including the ubiquitous and larger than life Frank Morgan, Wendell Corey, Alexis Smith and Mary Astor, although Darryl Hickman as Gable's estranged son Paul tends to chew the scenery.

Addresses the thorny issue of gambling and its social impact, especially upon families.

Stylishly directed by Mervyn LeRoy, capturing the end of the 1940's with still a lot of film noir touches. Roll the dice and enjoy it.
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A gem of a film...even if you don't know gambling
vincentlynch-moonoi6 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
While this is not a "great", as were a number of Clark Gable classics, it is a very solid and very good film that is well worth watching.

It would have been easy to simply tell the story of a small-time gambling casino, and to paint some of the patrons as pathetic losers at life. But this film goes beyond all that and tells its story from various perspectives.

For example, the owner of a casino (Gable)...but also a family man who is having problems with his son because the son disapproves of the gambling aspect of his father's life. The owner of the casino also has a serious heart condition, and he needs one thing to thrive -- retirement. The scenes with the son (Darryl Hickman, who is excellent) and wife (Alexis Smith, also excellent) are sentimental, but well done, and flesh out Gable's character more than one might expect from reading the blurb about the film.

While Gable is the star here, and the focus of the film, there's a wonderful parade of performances by terrific character actors to round out the film:

Lewis Stone is a down-and-out gambler...definitely quite a long ways from his days as Andy Hardy's father. He plays it superbly.

Mary Astor as the almost-other love of Gable.

Marjorie Rambeau as a high society lover of poker and a force of nature.

And, one of Gable's frequent costars -- Frank Morgan, although here Morgan is not quite so likable, but does very nicely as the opponent.

Not all of Gable's post-war films were gems, but this one is. And I know that because I don't like gambling, don't gamble, and don't understand gambling. But this film help my rapt attention. Highly recommended.

Frank Morgan as Jim Kurstyn

Barry Sullivan as Tycoon

Edgar Buchanan as Ed

Leon Ames as Dr. Palmer
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A Postwar Gable
finial1211 December 2002
This postwar movie was one of Clark Gable's last for the studio that made him a star--MGM. Gable is older, perhaps wiser, but here fully capable of playing this role with all of the insight into life that his 49 years have earned him. One has the feeling that after the great '30s roles such as Rhett Butler, after the death of Carole Lombard, and after the war, Gable was perfect for the world-weary professional gambler that he plays here--the part fits him like a glove. And he's surrounded by great character actors such as Frank Morgan, Lewis Stone, and Mary Astor, to name a few.

I don't agree with the other review that said this was a totally unrealistic, if watchable film: I grew up in a small city that had a gambling house similar to the one depicted here. It was well run, had many regulars, and was quite well known to the authorities. In any case, this movie is well worth a view, if you're not a Gable fan, you might be after viewing this one.
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It's all in the game
TheLittleSongbird8 August 2018
With an interesting subject that is very much relevant today, a more than capable director who has done some decent and more films and it is hard to go wrong with talent like Clark Gable, Mary Astor and Frank Morgan, have fondness for all three. Seeing them individually in different films is always great, seeing them in the same film together is even more of a treat.

'Any Number Can Play' is certainly an interesting film and does quite a good job with its serious subject. In terms of quality, everybody involved did much better in other things, especially previously, but mostly they are served well and 'Any Number Can Play' is a more than watchable and actually decent film in its own way. Some flaws here but also a lot of strengths, the film does try to do too much but the performances more than make up for it.

Like said above, 'Any Number Can Play' would have been better if it tried to do less. It can have too much going on that it's occasionally a bit hasty and muddled. It would have benefitted from not having as many characters and fleshed out some of the characters more.

Mary Astor and Audrey Totter should have had more to do. Astor deserved more than a cameo, but actually comes off better but she is quite touching here. Didn't really get very much from Totter, who is rather bland and her role fairly underwritten.

Clark Gable however is excellent in the lead role, charming yet hard-edged. Frank Morgan, Marjorie Rambeau and particularly Lewis Stone are more than solid in support, Rambeau is a delight and Stone is quite affecting and understated. Morgan has a knack for stealing scenes without over-egging. Alexis Smith is fetching and has charm.

The film is nicely shot and while the settings are few they are hardly ugly. The music doesn't intrude yet has enough presence to stop it from being bland. Mervyn Le Roy may have bring the most distinguished of all directing jobs but he keeps things moving and doesn't undermine the cast in any way.

Overall the script is thoughtful and taut and the story may have its faults but the intrigue factor is high and it does a good job showing the dangers and horrors of gambling and how it affects the family without trivialising or overdoing. Didn't think that the moral was a weird one at all.

In summation, interesting and worthwhile but with room for improvement. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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The Grand Hotel of illegal gambling joints.
mark.waltz13 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"I happen to be involved in a high-class crap game!" So says blowzy Marjorie Rambeau, the Sophie Tucker like matron, the last of the gambling red hot mama's. It is her acerbic wisdom which brings heart to this tale of the joint's troubled owner, Clark Gable, who has domestic and financial issues and a group of regular clients who involve him in their individual dramas. Then there are the first-time customers who either plead for a cancellation of their debt or threaten him with legal action. One client attempts suicide, another offers herself to him as his mistress. Wife Alexis Smith considers leaving him while her family obviously exploits their relationship. Darryl Hickman, as their son, proceeds to get into trouble which leads to turning points for the family as well as the future of the business.

Too many characters are the major issues of this soap opera which could have benefited from a little trimming. This leads to less screen time for the more interesting characters, particularly Rambeau and Mary Astor as the woman who greatly desires Gable's love. She has a truly degrading declaration of love, making her cameo truly heartbreaking. It is sad that she didn't share a scene with Smith who could pass as her younger sister. Among the others, Frank Morgan and Lewis Stone are also worth mentioning.
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Owning a gambling house ain't an easy life
nomoons1116 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This was one of those "missed" Clark Gable films I never knew about. I had no clue what to expect.

Clark Gable is part owner of a successful gambling house and in it we meet a lot of the regulars. They come from all walks off life but they have one thing in common... they never win. Gables son doesn't like his father too much and let's him know it. His wife wants him to quit so they can spend more time together. The worse part is that he has Angina and needs to step away from the business if he wants to live longer. All he's known for 15 years is this's gonna be a hard sell.

I can't say enough at how great this film depicts gambling addicts. For a newer film on an "addiction" type of scenario...try Clean and Sober. Obviously it's not about gambling but it portrays a pretty accurate description of alcoholism as this one does gambling. It's sad to watch these people throw all their money away over this stuff. One scene a woman drags her gambling addicted husband to Gable's home and tries to make him give the money back her husband gambled away. Ends up calling Gable a cheat and they cheated the money out of him. It amazes me people can't take responsibility for their own actions. He has a legit gambling house and it's his fault people lose? Yeah right.

Watching this you'll get a really good idea of what a gambling addiction can do to a person. Even for 1949 this film really works to show you what gambling can do to your finances...and your life.
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Good acting, but not very compelling
blanche-213 October 2006
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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Outstanding Clark Gable Drama
drednm22 November 2017
Clark Gable stars as owner of a legal, small-town gambling house but his heart condition is about to make him quit. It's then he realizes that he's alienated his wife (Alexis Smith), who has retreated to a "memory room," and his son (Darryl Hickman) who is ashamed of how he has become rich.

He's also got a sneaky brother-in-law (Wendell Corey) who is married to his wife's sister (Audrey Totter). But he also has loyal employees (Barry Sullivan, Edgar Buchanan, Caleb Peterson), and some women who are quite fond of him (Mary Astor, Marjorie Rambeau).

Stealing the film are two longtime MGM players. Franks Morgan plays the gambler who may break the bank, and Lewis Stone plays the has-been who's about to play his last hand. Each is excellent.

Others include his doctor (Leon Ames), a couple of thugs (William Conrad, Richard Rober), and dejected woman gambler (Dorothy Comingore), and Art Baker as the nightclub owner.

Scotty Beckett was originally signed to play the son and his picture is on Gable's desk, but he was replaced by Hickman.

Frank Morgan and Lewis Stone turn in terrific performances, and this ranks as one of Clark Gable's best post-war performances.
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telegonus15 August 2001
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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An honest gambler's last night of gambling
clanciai8 April 2019
Richard Brooks is the script writer of this film, which is the most interesting aspect of it. It's a chamber drama all happening whithin one day and night, and although nothing really happens, the suspense and tension is gradually and relentlessly increased until the very last moment. Clark Gable as the honest gambler has a successful gambling joint, while his son objects to the questionable morals of his profession, and his wife, Alexis Smith as noble as ever, tries to hold on to some decency of a regular family life in constantly proving his better half. There are other women around him as well, Mary Astor makes an impression in an important scene, and there is his miserable brother-in-law who does what he can to wreck the family and Clark's honest business, while Clark is only bored by his tricks, which he sees through immediately while just letting them drop, being too used to dirty tricks that don't touch him any more. Of course, there are some villains also, there is a tremendous gambling duel setting the finale, there is even some gunfire and an attempted suicide, but the most dramatic factor is Clark's health condition. He suffers from Angina Pectoris, he asks his doctor how many years he has left which he refuses to answer, and he gets his attacks, always in crucial moments. There is also a great restaurant brawl, and it all adds to a brilliantly scripted film, which the main actors live up to more than well and gives a fascinating and eloquent inside view of the professional gambling world.
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Sends the right message about the risks of gambling after post world wars
Ed-Shullivan20 April 2020
This film focuses wisely more on the risks of individuals with a gambling habit regardless of their economic wealth or lack there of, and not on the dashing film career of the handsome actor Clark Gable. Rather Clark Gable is portrayed as a tough guy who made it through sheer hard work and personal sacrifices to own an illegal gambling den and although the income he and his extended family derive from the profits of their gambling den it leaves him little time for his family or any friends.

The story becomes more about how Clark Gable grapples with his strained relationship with his teenage son and the long line of people who want a share of Gable's wealth even if they have to cheat to get a chunk of the betting profits, or rob him.

In the end the story of how so many lives are crumbled by a fierce and endless gambling habit, and as we all know, the house will always win in the end. In this case there is an unexpected twist at the end that I did not see coming but is worth the price of admission.

I give Gable's performance as well as a number of his co-stars a 7 out of 10 IMDB rating for both good acting and a very good lesson to be learned about gambling habits and knowing when to show them, and when to fold them.
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Different type of role for Gable
davidechard28 March 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Gable is the proprietor of an illegal gambling house. He's completed disconnected from his faithful loving wife and despondent son. All this, while dealing with a new diagnosed condition.The supporting case is stellar: Wendell Corey, Barry Sullivan, Audrey Totter, and Mary Astor. But, They're mere lampshades in this. Special note: William Conrad and Frank Morgan also play minor roles. The crux of this story relies heavily on Gable, his wife and son. Early in the movie, you have a sense that Gable is starting to feel regret in his line of work. Feels compassion for a young lady who pawned her wedding ring. Gable returns the money back to her. This movie resonates about life's second chances. This is My second favorite Gable movie. Mogambo being 1.
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family better stick together.
ksf-25 January 2021
Who doesn't love a clark cable film? and mary astor. and the Wizard, Frank Morgan, ten years later. Lewis Stone, Darryl Hickman. Leon Ames. so many fun names. and of course, wise old Ed Buchanan was in every western ever made. So, Doc tells Charley (Gable) to take it easy, or he'll push his heart over the edge. Charley wants to take the family on vacation, but as owner of a gambling house, he'll have to wrap up some business first. and an old flame shows up out of the blue, complicating things even more. and now his kid and wife don't want to go away. the night is going downhill fast. it's a really good study of relationships. and casinos. a shame that Ed Buchanan didn't have a larger part. he was such a fun character in movies. directed by Mervyn LeRoy. did Gypsy, Wizard of Oz, Random Harvest. Really good film. shows on Turner Classics about twice a year.
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"Three Martinis and I'm in Wonderland"
davidcarniglia19 October 2020
Warning: Spoilers
A casino owner gets deep into gambling while his family suffers. Clark Gable is Charlie Kyng; he gets mixed up with hoods Lew and Frank (Richard Rober and William Conrad). Meanwhile his wife Lon (Alexis Smith) and son Paul (Dwayne Hickman) stew at home; not helping matters, Lon's sister Alice, and her husband Robbin (Audrey Totter and Wendell Corey) live with the Kyngs.

Everyone at the club is wondering where Charley is. Well, he on the road, barely avoiding an accident. He tells an employee to find him when Palmer (Leon Ames) comes in. So, what's the problem? Turns out Charley has a heart condition, angina. He's supposed to "take it easy." Already, I suspect a lot of viewers are taking it too easy, as the pacing has the consistency of paint drying. But here's a good quip "if I give up living, I can live?" Correct, hot shot.

There's a mysterious woman hanging out. She's lost all her money, and is afraid to go home to face her husband. He does her a good turn. Despite what's happened so far, there's no tension. Anyway he talks to Lon, all's well. Alice talks with her over coffee; Robbin/Robbie is worked up over something. He obviously feels a great deal of resentment towards his in law; he's dependent on Charley, and hates it.

Two chumps, Lew and Frank, come looking up Robbie. He owes them. He's already tried to use Alice to wheedled the dough out of her sister. Oh, but the goons have "a way to square everything". That is, they want Robbie to rig the dice for the table he runs for Charlie. Looks like Charley's really going on a vacation, while Robbie fixes to get he fix things at the club. Another hard luck story comes calling: Charley can't put them back together though. The couple's probably right--the club's crooked and cheats people.

Back at the club, Robbie goes into action. He practices with the loaded dice in restroom. Outside, Charley meets Ben Snelerr (Lewis Stone), and old acquaintance. Ever the nice guy, Charley bails him out. Uh-oh, hes having a heart attack in his office. Well, just a tremor. He asks a divorcee to go away with him. Why? Because he survived a heart attack? Well, the real issue for him now is Paul's disdain for his questionable profession.

Anyway, time to throw the dice to placate the hoods. This is the sleepiest gambling club ever. We segue to Paul and his date not having a particularly good time. There's a big fight as some frat boys goad him. Back to the casino. Finally, the dice action. Charlie's suspicions. But he let's the guys go with their winnings, for the moment. Paul's in jail, whatever; its dad that's in the doghouse.

"For everyone who's different, there's a dirty name." That's Lon's very apt comment to her son, she's probably talking about both Paul and his father. Back at the club, Jim (Frank Morgan) is on a roll. Charley dines alone; what's his problem now? Oh, well, Lon drops in. She wants to get out of town, get away from it all. but, Jim continues to run the table. Charley could cut his losses and close the table, but it's as though he doesn't care.

But Robbie can't shake the two hoods. Finally Charlie intervenes at the table. Another heart tremor. On the last throw Big Jim loses it all. Just when we think it might be rainbows and happy trees, the two hoods pull a stick up. "cheap chizzlers!" Charley's right. Basically the whole place turns against Frank and Angie. There's a distraction, leading to a melee. Not only are the bums overcome, but Paul beats up Frank into the bargain.

Robbie is worried that the hoods will plug him as a sort of consolation prize. Who cares? Well, were not quite done. Charley hopes to redeem his bad side by deliberately making a bad bet. He loses. Actually he won, but pretended to lose. Ok, so he's out from under the gambling shadow, with a huge jag of melodrama. The end.

this was pretty much dead in the water until the last twenty minutes or so; the suspense of Jim's log winning streak, and how Charley would react keep us in the game, so to speak. And then, the two wannabee gangsters trying to make away with the cash sent things spinning up to a new crescendo. We see that all that Charley is trying to do is gain respect and class.

Having accomplished that, is virtual giveaway of the business is really a triumph too. that's all fine enough, the problem is that it look an hour or more to get the movies dice aligned for the good ending.

Ironically, the loaded dice angle is set up early on; but it takes a bunch of distractions, themselves unrolling at a less than fashionable pace (Paul's contempt for his dad, assorted down-on-their-luck gamblers chatting up Charley) that its a;most not worth the wait for plot to get going. The performances are quite good with this very talented cast; each character really fits their role and for the most part plays it well. Gable is almost too smooth; that works in the end when everything seems to fit together fine, but he compartmentalizes things so seamlessly that he struggles at times to maintain the third dimension of his character.

The dialogue is very natural and has more than a few thoughtful comments and asides, some rather solemn, and others ironic. With a great premise and most other elements in place, this might well have been a great family melodrama (with a bit of noir thrown in); but the pacing almost let the fuse go out.
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Curiously dark-toned throughout.
gregcouture12 November 2004
This is one of the prolific Mervyn LeRoy's less-distinguished directorial efforts, in my opinion. The story seems cobbled together, everything takes place indoors or at night on studio streets (sometimes rainswept), and none of the actors, including the leads, seem entirely comfortable in their roles. Possibly because of his wartime experiences, Clark Gable returned to the screen, after the end of World War II, looking quite a bit older than his chronological age and he doesn't appear to be well-matched here with the elegant, twenty years younger Alexis Smith, on loan from her home studio, Warner Brothers.

Ms. Smith was not very well-served by the M-G-M artisans assigned to this film. She looks rather grim and is not nearly as flatteringly photographed as was the case in her Warner Brothers films. (On a recent Turner Classic Movies broadcast, host Robert Osborne commented that Alexis was not happy working at M-G-M and was anxious to return to the "less pretentious" atmosphere of her home at Warner Brothers. She may have looked at the rushes for this one and decided that she'd been given short shrift at Hollywood's preeminent glamour factory.)

The story revolves around a gambling house whose boss is a hard-edged guy (not anything that Gable couldn't make sympathetic) whose family and employees, as well as his patrons, all seem to be not always on his team. A showdown in the final reel attempts to make everything right, of course, but I listened to the swell of the end title's music without much of a feeling of satisfaction.
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Gable disappoints!
JohnHowardReid16 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Producer: Arthur Freed. An M-G-M Picture copyright 25 May 1949 by Loew's Inc. Released 15 July 1949 in U.S.A.; 5 December 1949 in U.K. New York opening at the Capitol: 30 June 1949. Australian release: 1 December 1949. 9,349 feet. 103 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: A clean casino operator is beset by both an ungrateful family and too-grateful friends.

NOTES: M-G-M production number: 1444. Shooting commenced 4 January 1949 and wound up 26 April 1949 with a few re-takes on 5 May 1949. Negative cost: $1,465,641 (including $50,000 to 20th Century-Fox who owned the screen rights to Heth's 1945 novel; $29,167 in salary to screenwriter Richard Brooks; $68,100 in fees to director Mervyn LeRoy; and $241,250 contractual payments to Clark Gable). Initial worldwide rentals gross: $3,205,000.

PRINCIPAL PROBLEM: Gable disappoints.

COMMENT: An extremely popular film in foreign parts, where Gable still had a very large 1950 following. Mind you, I suspect many audiences found the movie disappointing. Too much talk and too little action. And a distinct lack of budget largesse. Just under $1½ million sounds more than adequate until you examine the details. Close to $1 million gone on payments to cast and crew, doesn't leave much room for gloss after deducting studio overheads.

The film opens in an admirable fashion with a wide diversity of camera angles and camera set-ups edited at a smart pace. The screenplay very skillfully and subtly imparts needed information. But later on, the script bogs down in some very tiresome domestic passages - and there is some unconvincing acting here from young Darryl Hickman. Against this, there are engrossing character portrayals by Stone, Morgan, Corey, Rober and Conrad, whom Brooks provides with some first-class dialogue. Gable's acting is efficient, but he does not make as much of the role as we would expect.

Atmospheric photography and appropriately drab and realistic sets are major assets.
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