19 July 2010 | wes-connors
Playing the Percentages with William Powell
New York businessman William Powell (as John "Jack" B. Marsden) is really the city's notorious underworld gambler "Natural Davis" (modeled after the infamous Arnold Rothstein). While very successful at what he does (due to playing the percentages), Mr. Powell wants to get out of the racket. He has received a separation summons from model-ish posing Kay Francis (as Alma), who is tired of being the stay-at-home gambler's wife. Powell is also feeling some remorse about having a lowly compatriot (Brooks Benedict) shot dead. He prides himself on being honest, and will kill those who don't play by the rules. Nobody welches.
Powell promises Ms. Francis he will give up gambling, and they plan a second honeymoon.
Then, Powell's similarly gambling-addicted kid brother Regis Toomey (as Alan "Babe" Marsden) arrives from San Francisco. Newly married to Jean Arthur (as Judith), he is in New York to gamble Powell's cash wedding gift into bigger bucks - and he wants to do it in the company of the legendary "Natural Davis" (not knowing "Natural" is his brother). This is, of course, an eyebrow-raising plot development, since Mr. Toomey should probably be thinking he will lose his shirt in such a match-up - so, let's just call him overconfident. Well, Powell concocts a plan to quit gambling, re-gain his wife, and cure his brother's gambling itch...
"Street of Chance" is a typically spotty production for the times, but it does contain some great-looking moments, courtesy of director John Cromwell and photographer Charles Lang. Howard Estabrook received an "Academy Award" nomination for cleverly white-washing this story of a real life gambler; he uses natural dialogue - answering "Good morning" with "What's good about it?" And, quotes from popular songs (like "Button Up Your Overcoat)" certainly ticked some fancy. Powell is a commanding lead, and the incidental characters are colorful; as "Tony" the one-armed newspaper salesman, John Risso is most memorable.
******* Street of Chance (2/3/30) John Cromwell ~ William Powell, Kay Francis, Regis Toomey, Jean Arthur