Sunday, March 19, 2017

Tonight's Movie: His Greatest Gamble (1934) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Richard Dix stars in the emotional melodrama HIS GREATEST GAMBLE (1934), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Dix plays Phillip, an irresponsible gambler who deeply loves his little girl Alice (Edith Fellows). He steals her away from his coldhearted ex-wife Florence (Erin O'Brien-Moore), but fate catches up with him when he inadvertently causes the death of an old girlfriend (Shirley Grey) who threatens to tell Florence his and Alice's whereabouts.

Phillip goes to jail and Alice is returned to Florence, and as Alice grows into a young woman (now played by Dorothy Wilson) her mother tries to keep control of the girl by insisting she's an invalid who can't walk. It struck me that in this regard there's more than a touch of THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET to the story; it's interesting to note that HIS GREATEST GAMBLE was released just a month ahead of the Norma Shearer version of BARRETTS.

When Alice tries to flee with her sweetheart Stephen (Bruce Cabot), they're stopped. Thanks to the intervention of Alice's old nanny (Eily Malyon), Phillip decides to escape prison, determined to set Alice's life on a happy path.

The film packs a great deal of story into its 71 minutes. It may not always make logical sense -- for instance, though Alice was nine when Phillip went to jail, she doesn't recognize him when they're reunited and believes his story that he's her "Uncle John."

However, any questionable plot points are more than overcome by Dix's moving performance as a complex character whose love for his daughter can't quite overcome his addiction to the roulette table. And though his former wife is clearly an unpleasant woman -- which begs the question, how did they end up married?! -- he was also in the wrong hiding Alice from her mother. Dix does an excellent job playing a charmer with failings, and he's moving without being maudlin. The more of Dix's work I see, the more I like him.

Dix is ably supported by Cabot as Alice's young man; this was made the same year Cabot appeared in FINISHING SCHOOL (1934), where he was Prince Charming for another young lady with mother issues. Leonard Carey also registers strongly as Alfred, Florence's butler who's soon in "John's" corner helping Alice and Stephen.

I also liked Dorothy Wilson, who was delightful in MEN OF AMERICA (1932); the Alice character could have come off as an easily persuaded dimwit but she manages to be sympathetic and likeable as the girl under her mother's thumb, who eventually finds the courage to live her own life.

Look for Samuel S. Hinds in a brief role as a doctor who's fired by Florence when he refuses to order Alice to stay in bed.

The movie was directed by John S. Robertson and filmed by Ted Tetzlaff.

Previous reviews of Richard Dix films: THE PUBLIC DEFENDER (1931), HELL'S HIGHWAY (1932), ROAR OF THE DRAGON (1932), THE ARIZONIAN (1935), SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR (1936), YELLOW DUST (1936), IT HAPPENED IN HOLLYWOOD (1937), BLIND ALIBI (1938), SKY GIANT (1938), TWELVE CROWDED HOURS (1939), MEN AGAINST THE SKY (1940), THE ROUNDUP (1941), TOMBSTONE: THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE (1942), and THE KANSAN (1943).

The Warner Archive DVD of HIS GREATEST GAMBLE is a fine print. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

6 Comments:

Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

I liked this one too, Dix was able to do playful and wistful, such a likable actor. Last week I saw 3 more of his: 7 KEYS TO BALDPATE which was so fun (you'd probably like), THE ARIZONIAN and SHOOTING STRAIGHT. Liking them all!

7:53 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I'm just so glad to find a real appreciation for this under-rated star. I know his films from the 40s really well, his bigger successes in the 30s less so - still lots to discover!!

2:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Glad you liked it too, Kristina! Great description of Dix. Thanks much for the recommendations, I haven't yet seen 7 KEYS TO BALDPATE or SHOOTING STRAIGHT. Should be reviewing DAY OF RECKONING, RENO, and LOVIN' THE LADIES soon.

Jerry, you're one of the people who played a key role in opening my eyes to Dix, so I really appreciate that, as I have found so much enjoyment in his films. And I haven't even hit the WHISTLER films yet! LOL.

Best wishes,
Laura

11:56 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Bringing two favourites together, Richard Dix and Preston Foster, Laura, you really need to see "AMERICAN EMPIRE" (1942). And I really hope to read your take on The Whistler films, Laura, preferably before my hair turns grey!! LOL

3:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'd love to see AMERICAN EMPIRE, Jerry, hope to track it down!

Hoping to turn to the Whistler films once I'm caught up on festivals and screeners -- hopefully May-ish.

Best wishes,
Laura

4:00 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Only joking, of course, but I look forward to it.

12:15 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older