53 user 33 critic

The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)

R | | Drama | 13 October 1972 (USA)
3:28 | Trailer
A daydreamer convinces his radio personality brother to help fund one of his get-rich-quick schemes.


Bob Rafelson


Jacob Brackman (screenplay), Bob Rafelson (story) | 1 more credit »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Nicholson ... David Staebler
Bruce Dern ... Jason Staebler
Ellen Burstyn ... Sally
Julia Anne Robinson ... Jessica
Scatman Crothers ... Lewis (as Benjamin 'Scatman' Crothers)
Charles LaVine ... Grandfather
Arnold Williams ... Rosko
John P. Ryan ... Surtees (as John Ryan)
Sully Boyar ... Lebowitz
Josh Mostel ... Frank
William Pabst William Pabst ... Bidlack
Garry Goodrow Garry Goodrow ... Nervous Man (as Gary Goodrow)
Imogene Bliss Imogene Bliss ... Magda
Ann Thomas Ann Thomas ... Bambi
Tom Overton Tom Overton ... Spot Operator


'It's Monopoly out there'. Jason Staebler, The King of Marvin Gardens, has gone directly to jail, lives on the Boardwalk and fronts for the local mob in Atlantic City. He is also a dreamer who asks his brother, David, a radio personality from Philadelphia to help him build a paradise on a Pacific Island - asking him to believe in yet another of his dreams, yet another of his get-rich-quick schemes. But luck is against them both and the game ends badly - real life reduced to radio drama. Written by Dave Cook <cookd@mcmail.cis.mcmaster.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


One scene had mentioned Marvin Gardens, but the scene was cut. See more »


David listens to tape recording he made but during close-up of tape recorder, none of the buttons that would allow it to play are depressed. See more »


[first lines]
David Staebler: I promised that I would tell you... why I never eat fish. When we all moved into my grandfather's house... it somehow fell to me to keep the old man's mind off of things. We would play casino over an old card table. He never let me win. One time he put one of those tiny model trains... into my hamburger. He was a practical joker. I broke my tooth on it. On Friday evenings we had fish at our house. Every Friday. Not on religious grounds, but because... Grandpa was a fish enthusiast....
See more »

Crazy Credits

The Columbia Pictures logo does not appear on this film. See more »


I Could Have Danced All Night
Music by Frederick Loewe
See more »

User Reviews

An unusual vision of American pessimism
16 June 2013 | by paul2001sw-1See all my reviews

It's hard to imagine Jack Nicholson appearing in a film like 'The King of Marvin Gardens' today. The movie is a story of an introverted broadcaster and his hustling brother; there's an air of seediness to the portrait of a run-down, early 1970s, east-coast America; of doomed hopelessness about the the huckster's implausible vision; and of a terrific sadness in the way that the broadcaster finds a touch of glamour and excitement in hanging out with his brother for a while, although the two of them have nothing in common and surely nothing is actually going to turn out right. I've heard it said that Saul Bellow's 'The Adventures of Augie March' is the great American novel because of its optimism; but this is another side of America, post-Vietnam war, a world of fraudsters, impossible dreamers, and those just hunkering down to survive. As a film, and certainly as entertainment, it's weaker than Nicholson and director Bob Rafelson's earlier 'Five Easy Pieces', primarily because Nicholson's character here is fundamentally less interesting: it's a correctly restrained performance from Jack, but playing a man who has little capacity for change, and constrained by a story that's low-key painful, rather than exciting. Yet even if this is not a fun movie, it's a telling one. Pessimism, like optimism, remains part of the American landscape, as it is in every country; but it's a shame that it's been written out of the contemporary Hollywood vision.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 53 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.





English | Japanese

Release Date:

13 October 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Philosopher King See more »

Filming Locations:

Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

We've Got Your Streaming Picks Covered

Looking for some great streaming picks? Check out some of the IMDb editors' favorites movies and shows to round out your Watchlist.

Visit our What to Watch page

Recently Viewed