Tuesday, May 29, 2007

GAMBLER'S CHOICE (1944)

A slightly sub-B drama which follows the formula of any number of 30's crime films (from MANHATTAN MELODRAMA on) as it focuses on three childhood friends who take very different paths in life. This one opens with a gang of pickpocketing kids getting caught by the cops; Mike and Mary, first-time offenders, are let off, but Ross, a no-good kid with a brutal father, goes to a detention home. Years later Ross (Chester Morris) is a gambler, Mike (Russell Hayden) is a cop, and they both love Mary (Nancy Kelly), a singer. Morris, who works at Sheldon Leonard's gambling club in the Tenderloin, is fleecing a society woman (Lee Patrick) to get seed money to start his own club. He hires a singer who goes by the name Vi Parker (and who performs in a giant floating crescent moon prop) but who is really his old pal Kelly. As Morris gains money and power, he is able to get his cop friend Hayden promoted and he begins romancing Kelly, which irritates Patrick. Leonard and Patrick connive to get rid of Morris, but in a scuffle, a cop is killed by mistake and Hayden gets all the clubs shut down. Morris sees to it that Hayden is demoted to a rural beat, but eventually a special prosecutor brings Hayden back to head up a massive clean-up campaign. Stuck in the middle of all this is Kelly and her aging father (Lloyd Corrigan). There's a plotline involving Leonard conspiring with gangster Lyle Talbot to make it look like Hayden is on the take, but Morris gets all noble and breaks into Leonard's place to steal the phony evidence. In the end there's a shootout in which Morris sacrifices himself so Hayden and Kelly can live happily ever after. For a short movie, there's a lot of plot; it never becomes incoherent, but I also never really felt much for any of the characters. Had this been done at Warner Brothers, there might have been some spice to the proceedings, but it was, I believe, an independent film released through Paramount, and it winds up as nothing special. [DVD]

1 comment:

Mike said...

Mike
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