|GAMBLING LADY (director: Archie Mayo; screenwriters: based on a story by Doris Malloy/Ralph Block/Doris Malloy; cinematographer: George Barnes; editor: Harold McLernon; music: Bernhard Kaun; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Jennifer Lady Lee), Joel McCrea (Garry Madison), C. Aubrey Smith (Peter Madison), Pat O'Brien (Charlie Lang), Robert Barrat (Mike Lee), Arthur Vintin (Jim Fallin), Willard Robertson (D.A.), Claire Dodd (Sheila Aiken), Philip Faversham (Don), Phillip Reed (Steve), Huey White (Mealy - Bodyguard), Ferdinand Gottschalk (Cornelius, Corporation Lawyer), Louise Beavers (Peter's Maid); Runtime: 66; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Presnell Sr. ; WB; 1934)|
fine example of the breezy chic
entertainment for its time."
by Dennis Schwartz
filmmaker Archie Mayo ("Doorway to
Hell"/"Bordertown"/"Petrified Forest"), usually good
in bringing home a box office winner for the studio, as
he does here, does an adequate job directing this
so-so implausible quickie drama on gambling among
the society set, that was released just prior to the
Production Code's censorship.
It's based on a story by
Doris Malloy and is haphazardly
written by the author and Ralph Block. It's fast
paced and heavy on action sequences over story
development, but is a fine example of the breezy
chic entertainment for its time.
Lee (Barbara Stanwyck)
is the daughter of honest gambler
Mike Lee (Robert Barrat),
worked in the shady casinos run by the syndicate.
The only child seemingly
inherited from dad his ethical code of
never cheating even if it means no income. Pops,
when he can't pay his debts and refuses the
syndicate's offer to cheat, jumps out of their
apartment window, leaving Lady on her own. Knowing
only about poker games and racetracks, Lady chooses
to become a pro gambler but only if she can do it
without cheating like dad. Her father's unscrupulous
independent bookie friend Charlie Lang (Pat
O'Brien) gives Lady some financial help
getting over the tragedy, but she turns down his
marriage proposal and they still remain pals.
Through her dad's friendship with smoothie, hands
clean syndicate boss Jim Fallin (Arthur
Vintin), Lady gets a job dealing for the
casino mob in private games on Park Avenue but
refuses to run a crooked game. Wealthy society man Garry
Madison (Joel McCrea) by accident takes two
coppers into the illegal Park Avenue gambling game
and the coppers pinch everyone there, including
Lady. Before spending the night in the slammer, the
miffed Lady has some choice words for an apologetic
Garry, who is trying to make a case for his
innocence. In the morning Charlie pays Lady's bail
before the society guy can. But Garry confronts her
and asks for forgiveness, when she relents he
proposes. Garry then brings his future bride to the
country estate of his aristocratically polite and
generous gambler father Peter Madison (C.
Aubrey Smith), who wants to make sure she's
not a gold-digger and bribes her with an offer of
$50,000 not to marry his son. But she refuses and
thereby earns his deep respect.
boss Fallin, who you figure is the main villain,
takes a powder for the second half of the film and
that leaves haughty society lady Sheila
Aiken (Claire Dodd), Garry's close
society friend and former romantic interest,
to take on the heavy role as the film turns away from
being merely a story of the rackets but also one about
a love triangle. The bitchy Sheila
accidentally meets the honeymooners in Monte Carlo and
tries to win back Garry by smearing Lady as someone
unsuitable for him because she's from the wrong side
of the tracks. Back in New York, Charlie gets arrested
and Lady bails him out with the jewels she pawned that
she won in cards from the snobby Sheila. A jealous
Garry refuses to let wifey see the bookie anymore.
When the bookie is killed, Garry is falsely accused of
the murder because he was seen arguing with Charlie
right before the murder and then Garry turns up with
the pawn ticket. There's no tension because we know it
was a mob hit, but there are some incredulous
melodramatics about Sheila being Garry's alibi but he
won't tell the DA (Willard Robertson)
because he does not wish to compromise her reputation
for being in her apartment all night with a married
man. It leads to a messy and unbelievable climax
involving a fast divorce and a faster reconciliation
when the truth is learned how come Sheila will be
Garry's alibi if Lady agrees to a divorce and asks for
a big annulment from her wealthy hubby (a plot
orchestrated by the conniving Sheila). When Garry's
pop spots Lady tearing up the alimony settlement note
and sobbing, everything gets squared away.
a pre-Code film, so the criminals get away with
everything--from rigging the gambling games to
murder. The viewer also gets to see a suicide, a
divorce and the acceptance of illegal gambling by
the society crowd.
my money, Ferdinand Gottschalk, playing
Garry's nebbish corporation lawyer, though only in a
bit part, stole every scene he was in and cracked me
up with his fidgety antics.
REVIEWED ON 8/1/2014 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ