SILVER QUEEN is a romantic soap opera of the 1870s, with a "meh" plot made watchable by two favorite stars.
Coralie Adams (Priscilla Lane) is engaged to upstanding Gerald Forsythe (Bruce Cabot) when she lays eyes on gambler James Kincaid (George Brent) at a New York charity dance. It's attraction at first sight, and Coralie's interest deepens when she realizes that Kincaid has a gambler's heart like her own.
Coralie's father (Eugene Pallette) loses everything in a stock market crash, and Coralie resolves to pay off his creditors. She postpones marriage to Gerald, leaves town and ultimately becomes the operator of the "Silver Queen," a gambling palace in San Francisco. As the years pass she sends Gerald the money to pay off her father's debts. Unfortunately, Gerald puts the money to another use, with disastrous results, and both he and Kincaid re-enter Coralie's life.
SILVER QUEEN has a blessedly brisk pace at 80 minutes, as the story is really rather silly. Sweet Priscilla Lane as a gambling queen is a bit hard to believe; it's a role which would have been more appropriate for someone with more of an edge, such as George Brent's then-wife Ann Sheridan.
The idea that several years pass with the characters' relationships almost frozen in time is odd, as is the notion that a young man of society would still plan to marry a woman who's gone off for years to run a gambling house.
There are also some important issues which would have been cleared up if Brent and Lane had just communicated directly; if only he'd presented her with her father's mine personally, or asked about it years later. And him leaving for Nevada City without seeing her first was a mistake as well!
All that said, I love both Brent and Lane and since one of them is on screen in most scenes I had no difficulty remaining interested in the film, even though I didn't really care much for the material. They're both charmers, and a scene where he takes her home after a night at the theater effectively conveys romantic longing on the part of both characters. I was glad I took the time to see them in it and just wish they'd had a more interesting and believable script.
Cabot does well as a seeming nice guy who gradually reveals layers of sleaze, most shockingly when he's trying to get a loan from his increasingly startled mother (Janet Beecher). The cast also includes Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Lynne Overman, Spencer Charters, Marietta Canty, and Sam McDaniel (erroneously billed as McDaniels). This was one of the earliest credits for Arthur Hunnicutt.
The film was directed by Lloyd Bacon and filmed in black and white by Russell Harlan.
With the director and lead actors, one might assume this was a Warner Bros. movie, but the studio had packaged the talent and lent them out for the film, which was a United Artists release.
Victor Young received an Oscar nomination for his waltz-laden scoring of SILVER QUEEN. It was also nominated for Best Black and White Art Direction.
A noticeable blooper: The opening title card announces that it is 1873, immediately followed by someone reading a just-delivered newspaper clearly dated 1872.
SILVER QUEEN has been shown on Turner Classic Movies.
February 2016 Update: Thanks to reader John G. for the info that SILVER QUEEN is now available on DVD from Grapevine Video.