26 September 2015 | AlsExGal
The acting is great, the story is mediocre..
So I'm actually averaging a 5/10 story with 9/10 performances to give this one a 7. Barbara Stanwyck (Lady Lee) is well cast as the daughter of an honest gambler who has been raised to be an honest gambler. When her dad, Mike Lee (Paul Barrat) is being pressured by the syndicate to join their dishonest rackets, he kills himself rather than give in.
So Lady Lee is on her own, using what her dad taught her and the motto of "honesty,always" in gambling to make money for herself and her backers. She cleans up in every game using honest methods. Along the way she meets a rich young man, Garry Madison (Joel McCrea) who falls for her and wants to marry her. So far this is the stuff of any mundane 30's programmer.
What makes it unique are the performances. This film is still technically a precode, released just a few months before the code, and I had to look it up to see. It rides both sides of the fence. It makes gambling look like an honorable pursuit, as long as you are honest about it. Heck, by the end of the film you even don't look badly at the criminal gambling syndicate that drove Mike Lee to suicide and likely killed one other person besides that. The person you want to hiss at is Claire Dodd as one of Gary's rich ex girlfriends. She really makes some underhanded moves.
An oddball performance comes from C. Aubrey Smith as Garry Madison's dad, Peter. He gambles, he knew Lee's dad, and he likes Lee, yet he is willing to pay her off to not marry Garry. He has the audacity to want to cut cards over whether they marry or not, AND ask Lady "isn't that how Mike would have handled it"? OK, you rub the suicide of a girl's father in her face AND you think that your son would be better off in the clutches of some underhanded hussy like Clair Dodd's character? Color me bewildered by Garry's dad. It's just weird to see such unlikable words and attitudes coming from a character who is largely playing someone cuddly and paternal.
I'd give this film a shot. At 66 minutes it moves at a very brisk pace with good performances by everybody involved. Just be prepared to scratch your head a great deal and ask "Why did THAT person just do THAT???".