10 June 2007 | Bunuel1976
GAMBLER'S CHOICE (Frank McDonald, 1944) **1/2
This Chester Morris vehicle is superior to AERIAL GUNNER (1943) it's made by practically the same people but still emerges as nothing special. The film follows the familiar plot line of MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934) two childhood friends grow up to be on opposing sides of the law, one a cop (Russell Hayden) and the other a gambler (Morris); of course, they both happen to love the same girl (Nancy Kelly, whom I should be watching soon in her most important and Oscar-nominated role in THE BAD SEED ) and, by the end of it, Morris has seen the error of his ways and gives his life and gal for his best pal.
Actually, the early 20th century New York atmosphere is vividly recreated on a shoestring and Morris struts in clear imitation of James Cagney (who starred in the similar ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES ); his character's epitaph, then, is borrowed from another Cagney vehicle THE ROARING TWENTIES (1939). Featured in the colorful supporting cast are Sheldon Leonard (as Morris' business rival), Tom Dugan (as Morris' right-hand man), Lee Patrick (as Morris' financier), Lloyd Corrigan (as Kelly's politician father) and, in minor roles, Jimmy Conlin, Lyle Talbot and Dewey Robinson. Interestingly enough, the script was a combination of the writing talents of James Edward Grant, Irving Reis and Maxwell Shane (who also had a similar credit on AERIAL GUNNER).