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|KING OF THE ROARING 20's: THE STORY OF ARNOLD ROTHSTEIN (director: Joseph M. Newman; screenwriters: from the novel The Big Bankroll by Leo Katcher/Jo Swerling; cinematographer: Carl E. Guthrie; editor: George White; music: Franz Waxman; cast: David Janssen (Arnold Rothstein), Dianne Foster (Carolyn Green), Mickey Rooney (Johnny Burke), Jack Carson (Timothy W. 'Big Tim' O'Brien), Diana Dors (Madge), Dan O'Herlihy (Phil Butler), Mickey Shaughnessy (Jim Kelly), Keenan Wynn (Tom Fowler), Joseph Schildkraut (Abraham Rothstein), William Demarest (Henry Hecht); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Samuel Bischoff/David Diamond; Allied Artists; 1961)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Dull biopic on the Prohibition-era
gangster, gambler and bootlegger Arnold Rothstein, known as
"The Brain." A miscast suave, tall and lean
David Janssen plays the short and chubby soft spoken
Rothstein. Writer Jo Swerling bases it on the 1959 nonfiction
Big Bankroll by Leo Katcher, and manages to get many of the facts wrong
and fails to get into the 1919 World Series fix organized by Rothstein
that was known as the Black Sox scandal. Joseph M. Newman
("Pony Soldier"/"This Island Earth"/"The
Big Circus") directs this plodding
biopic and keeps the pace tediously slow.
Arnold Rothstein was born in the Lower East of New York in
1872 and came from a decent middle-class home. His father Abraham (Joseph Schildkraut) was a respected Jewish
businessman. Though a genius with numbers, Arnold dropped out of school
and began a life of scams early on.
The film chronicles Rothstein's rise to fame as a gambling kingpin and his
sudden downfall. Rothstein's lifetime nemesis is a crooked cop, Butler (Dan O'Herlihy), he knew from his neighborhood as someone
always on the take. When
Rothstein is set-up to run a gambling house by crooked politician 'Big Tim'
O'Brien (Jack Carson, his last film), crooked cop Butler is part of the
syndicate. The gambler's loyal
sidekick from childhood, Johnny Burke (Mickey Rooney), becomes a victim
of a rubout organized by Big Tim, after he's tricked
into revealing Butler's record of graft to a newspaper by his pal Arnold. Rothstein then
connives with attorney Tom Fowler (Keenan Wynn) to get his
hit men clients to confess that Butler ordered the hit and succeeds in
getting Butler fried in the chair. The underworld takes a dim view of
this, and they retaliate by bumping Rothstein off during a poker game
where he's holding a royal flush.
Rothstein's wife is the Broadway actress Carolyn Green (Dianne Foster), but he continues living the debauched life of a crooked gambler and a man about the town. She will eventually leave him.
REVIEWED ON 9/29/2010 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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