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  • Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Pat O'Brien, and C. Aubrey Smith star in "Gambling Lady," a 1934 film directed by Archie Mayo. Stanwyck plays "Lady" Lee, the daughter of Mike Lee, who runs the only honest gambling joint in town. The rest are owned by a syndicate. After Mike kills himself, Lady Lee gets a job with the syndicate, but she will only play honestly. She turns out to be quite the card shark.

    Lady attracts a wealthy man, Garry Madison (McCrea) and the two marry. But jealousy enters the picture when Sheila Aiken (Claire Dodd) shows up and tries to get Garry away from Lady.

    Nice film, on the short side, with good performances from Stanwyck, McCrea, O'Brien as Lady's friend, and C. Aubrey Smith as Garry's father. Stanwyck is very young here, with the edge and toughness that will make her one of the great stars. McCrea is as handsome and likable as ever.

    Recommended for the performances.
  • 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???".
  • A high-minded GAMBLING LADY runs into trouble when she becomes connected with a society family.

    Breezy & entertaining, this was the sort of film which Warner Brothers created with such ease. Blessed with good acting & fine production values, these pictures were generally guaranteed to be crowd pleasers.

    As always, Barbara Stanwyck is utterly fascinating to watch. Not only talented & lovely, Stanwyck's great forte was her utter believability in any role she undertook. Here, she looks perfectly natural with a deck of cards in her hand, playing & dealing. Her authenticity is matched by the passion which she displayed with every performance.

    Her leading men are two of the best: rich boy Joel McCrea & genial crook Pat O'Brien - both do well by their roles. Given equal billing, the viewer is left guessing for quite a while which one will finish the film in Stanwyck's arms.

    Excellent support is given by marvelous old Sir C. Aubrey Smith as a kindly gentleman who befriends Stanwyck, Arthur Vinton as the head of a notorious Gambling Syndicate & eccentric little Ferdinand Gottschalk as Sir Aubrey's lawyer.

    Movie mavens will recognize Willie Fung as a member of the Syndicate, and Arthur Treacher & Louise Beavers as Sir Aubrey's butler & cook - all uncredited.
  • Gambling Lady was the first of seven films that Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck would team together in. But the fact that it's the first of them is the only distinguishing feature about this rather routine film that skips from a gangster story to a romance without missing a beat.

    Stanwyck is the daughter of professional, but honest gambler Robert Barrat who commits suicide because he's broke and won't tie in with the gambling syndicate. But he's taught his daughter all he knows about various games of chance. She's so good that Kevin Spacey would definitely have picked her for his team in the current 21.

    She's got two guys on the hook for her, rich playboy Joel McCrea and bookie Pat O'Brien. Claire Dodd is in her usual role as the other woman, in this case McCrea's other woman. Best in the film though is C. Aubrey Smith, McCrea's father who's the wisest rich guy around.

    A murder, an alibi, a divorce, all figure in this film which when it started I thought would be one of Warner Brothers gangster flicks. Turned into a romantic melodrama which I wasn't expecting.

    Joel McCrea was under contract to RKO at the time and this was one of those loan out deals. Neither he or Stanwyck thought much of the film, but they formed a lifelong friendship out of this and went on to such better films as Union Pacific, The Great Man's Lady, and Trooper Hook.

    See all of those before you see this one.
  • Daughter of a professional gambler, Lady Lee (barbara Stanwyck) is a popular card player among the swells. She catches the eye of Garry Maddison (Joel McCrea )who falls head over heels for her and his father and gambling buddy (C. Aubrey Smith) makes a halfhearted attempt to buy her off more as a test than anything else. Other interested parties, Garry's elitist beau (Claire Dodd) and a fellow card sharp ( Pat O'Brien) whose carrying a torch for Lady are not so happy with the union however. Murder intercedes and Lady's lap of luxury lifestyle may be short lived.

    Lady Lee is tailored made for Stanwyck and she dominates the picture with her self assured yet vulnerable style. McCrea and O'Brien bring a touch more complexity to their standard 30s character roles to stave off predictability and Director Archie Mayo provides a few interesting montages and compositions to give Gambling Lady a decent enough look that by the time it reaches it's somewhat contrived finish will not have you feeling cheated.
  • Stanwyck plays an honest gambler and she steals the movie. After she ("Lady" Lee) realizes she can't rely on her gambling father, she meets wealthy Joel McCrea, who is, well, young and smitten. Find acting by all, including Pat O'Brien as Stanwyck's buddy and Sir C. Aubrey Smith as a father figure.

    I just saw this movie shortly after seeing "But the Flesh Is Weak" on Turner Classic Movies. Sir C. Aubrey Smith is also in that movie, in which he plays the gambling father of young Robert Montgomery, who is smitten by wealthy Nora Gregor and is buddies with wealthy Heather Thatcher. Both movies have a similar parent-child duo wanting to strike it rich, and the start of each movie is similar. But from there on, they are two very different movies, "Gambling Lady" being a more thoughtful, dramatic film, and "But the Flesh Is Weak" being a romantic romp.
  • Gambling Lady (1934)

    ** 1/2 (out of 4)

    Warner melodrama has a poker player (Barbara Stanwyck) going to the other side of the tracks by marrying a social boy (Joel McCrea) but she can't get away from her bookie friend (Pat O'Brien). This is a decent little film that only runs 66-minutes so if you're needing time to kill then this movie can fill that void. The movie has a very familiar story and I'm convinced that Warner just re-used this story over and over and just changed the character names. If you've seen one film about a bad girl switching sides then you won't find any shocks here but the three leads keep the film moving well. Stanwyck is once again good in her role as is McCrea but the film certainly belongs to C. Aubrey Smith who plays McCrea's father. His comic timing and mature performance certainly sticks out among the major cast. O'Brien adds nice support in his small role as does Claire Dodd as the woman after McCrea. Again, this quickie really doesn't offer anything new but if you've got time to kill and enjoy the cast it isn't too bad.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    During her four year non-exclusive contract years with Warner Brothers, Barbra Stanwyck defined what made the pre-code movie heroine so interesting. She wasn't afraid of being ashamed of her sins or her schemes or her desires. This is not the scheming murderess Stanwyck of "Double Indemnity" or "Martha Ivers", but a woman raised by her father with the love of cards, and able to swindle a nasty socialite out of her jewelry simply because she wanted to. In this nasty socialite's (Claire Dodd) case, she gets what she's coming to, daring Stanwyck to outshine her in a game of 21 which nearly results in Dodd stripping off her fur lined top. Stanwyck rose up in society the hard way here, going from backroom casinos to Monte Carlo by marrying Joel McCrea whom she had earlier blamed for setting her up at one of those backroom casinos.

    Upon being introduced to McCrea's father (the wonderful Sir C. Aubrey Smith), Stanwyck stands up to his test after their re-introduction scene turns into Smith trying to bribe Stanwyck into dumping McCrea. It's playful and sweet, especially after Smith tells Stanwyck that he had been hoping for a fight, so he has no choice but to give in and let her marry Stanwyck. It's clear that Smith is just upset that he's too old to woo her himself, because at heart, his old man is just as much a rascal as Stanwyck is, and it is clear that as a daughter-in-law, he will love the challenge of trying to tame her and keep the marriage intact as well.

    Also appearing in the film is Pat O'Brien, but he has little to do as an old co-hort of Stanwyck's who can only watch from the sidelines as Stanwyck and McCrea become closer. The story is trite and predictable, but there are moments in the script that are very funny. Of all of the rivals in her films, Stanwyck finds one of her best in Dodd who may briefly believe that she's won McCrea away from her, but the odds are against her, thanks to Smith who has no intention of allowing his son's marriage to break up. A very funny scene with maid Louise Beavers wraps everything up neatly. This is a typical short (67 minutes) Warner Brothers women's picture, yet one that men can enjoy because of the gambling plotline.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Barbara Stanwyck, Barbara Stanwyck, Barbara Stanwyck. Barbara Stanwyck. That's probably all you need to know, but I will add a few more words. The premise here is that she's a gambler, always playing by the rules, and with luck and skill always coming out on top. She decides to get married to a rich guy played by Joel McCrea, but faces obstacles first in his father (C. Aubrey Smith), and then in his ex-fiancé (Claire Dodd). Meanwhile, he gets a taste of jealousy himself when Stanwyck helps out an old friend (Pat O'Brien). The double standard is on full display here, but it's nice to see Stanwyck's character so strong, in addition to being honorable. She's a tough talking woman who "plays the game straight". She has such a range in her eyes and facial expressions that she lights up films which would otherwise be far less interesting. I always love C. Aubrey Smith too – such an iconic character himself – and the dialog in the movie is sharp and snappy. The ending gets a little melodramatic and the final scene has one of the most awkward kisses I've ever seen, with the father standing right behind the couple, but that just adds to the quirkiness of this old film.
  • Most people have a main reason for wanting to see a film, whether it's the concept, being a fan of a director, loving an actor or actress, having a thing for talented casts and curiosity. They have all been reasons for seeing a film numerous time, whether it's one of those, more than one or all. My main reason was Barbara Stanwyck, she was in a fair share of films that had material well beneath her but she always rose above it and very rarely gave a bad performance.

    One can't go wrong with Joel McCrea in his first of six films with Stanwyck, when in a role that suits him, and C. Aubrey Smith who was always a scene stealer. Archie Mayo was not the most consistent of directors, but he was a more than able one and did do enough films that are worth watching such as 'Black Legion', 'It's Love I'm After' and 'The Petrified Forest'. 'Gambling Lady' doesn't see any of them at their best and all did much better films, but it is definitely worth a look and has enough to it to make it more than just a curio.

    The cast is 'Gambling Lady's' biggest strength, so good that it is worth more than one star of my decided rating for the film. Stanwyck brings her usual steely toughness and has a sensuality also here too, making her character a lot more interesting than she seemed on paper. McCrea, in his first collaboration with Stanwyck, is likeable and plays his on paper not particularly interesting with cool charisma. O'Brien is good despite his underuse and makes the most of his too little material. Claire Dodd is suitably hissable. It was a shock to see Smith in the type of role he plays here and he was clearly having a lot of fun with it and some particularly juicy dialogue.

    Some very funny moments in the script, which sparkles at its best. 'Gambling Lady' moves swiftly, is directed in tight fashion by Mayo and it is a good looking film too (not lavish but very nicely shot, some beautifully framed ones here, and always cohesively edited). Stanwyck looks great in her clothes.

    'Gambling Lady' has its faults though. For pre-code, some of the material could have afforded to be bolder than turned out and edgier too. The ending comes across as very melodramatic and contrived, and some parts are on the soapy side.

    Biggest drawback is the story. Pre-code films were often thin on the ground and silly in this regard, but the story here is very flimsy, in content initially and in depth, and sometimes later on over-complicated from trying to stuff too much in. It takes silliness and credibility straining to a whole new level, with some serious suspension of disbelief here needed to the extent that little makes sense. No real surprises here either.

    Overall, not bad but not great. Just about worth taking a gamble on though. 6/10
  • Stanwyck shines with her usual talent and beauty as she brightens up another slightly disappointing story. This time she's a trained gambler playing high-stakes poker for the mob. They trick her into cheating and when naive bachelor McCrea leads the cops to her, she's busted. This leads to a set of confusing circumstances, but eventually their marriage, which Stanwyck is willing to sacrifice to free her friend O'Brien.

    Doesn't make much sense? Neither does this movie, but it's pretty OK fun and a suitable vehicle for all three stars.
  • As a movie, I would have given this a seven, but because Stanwyck is the star, I upped the ante.

    That gambling term is appropriate since that is the theme of this movie which will command your attention from beginning to end.

    Long time co-star Joel McCrae (this was their first time together) is excellent as the main man in her life.

    Will they get together? Sure, it's in the cards.

    So - nothing spectacular about this movie, but nothing wrong with it either. The lady from Brooklyn makes it extra-worthwhile.

    Other plus-es include the always reliable Pat O'Brien and the always delightful Sir C. Aubrey Smith. What a character --- actor.
  • "Gambling Lady" should have been an excellent film. After all, it starred Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Pat O'Brien and C. Aubrey Smith. However, the film really is, at times, embarrassing because the writing seems awfully poor.

    When the film begins, you learn that Lady Lee (Stanwyck) is a gambler with a heart of gold(?). She is a professional gambler financed by mob money...yet she inexplicably is honest(????). During her work, she meets a rich guy, Garry (McCrea) and he falls in love with her instantly...though WHY is never really understood. Eventually they marry and seem pretty happy. However, an old girlfriend of Garry's soon arrives and makes a real muck of the marriage. How she destroys the marriage is just plain bizarre...one of MANY story elements that just seemed to stretch the story WAY beyond the audience's ability to suspend disbelief.

    The bottom line is that the film repeatedly makes little sense. The characters and what they do just never gels and the film left me feeling bored and a bit annoyed that the script wasn't worked out logically. Tough to like.
  • ksf-221 September 2020
    Barbara Stanwyck... 1934, so the film code had JUST kicked in. some other pretty (early) big names here... Joel McCrae, Pat Obrien, Claire Dodd, and of course, Aubrey Smith, who was EVERYONE's wise, older, grandfather or uncle. Jennifer (Stanwyck) gets caught up with the wrong crowd. the sound is pretty bad, and the picture quality is pretty rough. O'brien is Charlie Lang, who likes Jennifer well enough, but isn't the right guy for her. Jennifer takes on the kings of the poker rooms, and catches them doing bad things. this one moves SO slowly, and the quality is just terrible. and the acting is just so-so. not so good. Directed by Archie Mayo; had started in the silents... probably his biggest film was Petrified Forest. In an odd twist, in 1949, Stanwyck will make another film called The Lady Gambles, which is about a gambling addiction.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    . . . the always eponymous Warner Bros. warn we Americans of the "Anything Goes" far future. Every time the titular GAMING LADY Lee appears to win a bet, she always loses something even more important, the prophetic Warner prognosticators document here. Perhaps it is thanks to Warner churning out decades of cautionary tales such as GAMBLING LADY that recent polls show that the majority of U.S. citizens now purchasing Power Ball tickets pray that they do NOT win, knowing from media reports how complicated, unsettled, dangerous and panic-filled the rest of their days will be if they actually DO pick the "winning" numbers!
  • Mike Lee runs a honest gambling table but he is under pressure from a crime syndicate. He kills himself and leaves a life insurance to his daughter Jennifer Lady Lee (Barbara Stanwyck). She rejects a marriage proposal from longtime admirer Charlie Lang (Pat O'Brien). She uses the insurance money to pay off the debt to the syndicate and starts working with them to play the richest tables. She gets arrested when rich playboy Garry Madison (Joel McCrea) brings undercover cops. She falls for him anyways and they get married.

    I'm not sure how the syndicate works or why Lady would work with them. I'm also not sure about the relationship. It's a lot not sure. I do like Stanwyck as this hard-nosed character and the attempt at a love triangle. Quite frankly, I like her more with the terribly flawed Charlie which would be much more dramatic. It's still good enough for Stanwyck fans although her character is screaming to be an independent woman. I don't see the chemistry.
  • D: Archie Mayo. Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Pat O'Brien, Claire Dodd, C. Aubrey Smith.

    Not a bad romp through every cliche in the mid-depression era: tough dame from the wrong side of the tracks, kind, sympathetic crooks, effete, useless rich people, true love between unlikely lovers, a couple of romantic triangles, tacked-on murder mystery episode, etc. Also, Stanwyck starting to show big doses of the tough-as-nails but soft-hearted street-smart operator she perfected by the time of "The Lady Eve". As always, Barbara Stanwyck is utterly fascinating to watch, talented & lovely, Stanwyck's great forte was her utter believably in any role she undertook.

    Gambling Lady(1934) is definitely Art Deco in the decor and you also find Egyptian artifacts on the mantel and other places in the film These types of bric-a-brac were the rage in Hollywood at that time because of the opening of King Tut's tomb in the 1920s. You see many pieces of jewelry and statues, etc. in these 1930s films that link to the Egyptian craze back then. The clean lines of the Art Deco era are also evident in these films. Beautiful! Another excellent flick from one of the most UNcelebrated actresses of the golden age of Hollywood.