Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Writers: Richard Brooks (screenplay), Edward Harris Heth (based on his novel)
Producer: Arthur Freed
Music: Lennie Hayton
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Editor: Ralph E. Winters
Stars: Clark Gable, Alexis Smith, Wendell Corey, Audrey Totter
Release Date: July 15, 1949 (United States)
Runtime: 112 minutes
Genre: Drama, War
Clark Gable Charley Enley Kyng
Alexis Smith Lon Kyng
Wendell Corey Robbin Elcott
Frank Morgan Jim Kurstyn
Mary Astor Ada
Lewis Stone Ben Gavery Snelerr
Barry Sullivan Sarah Calbern
Edgar Buchanan Ed
Leon Ames Dr. Palmer
Mickey Knox Pete Senta
Richard Rober Lew “Angie” Debretti
William Conrad Frank Sistina
Darryl Hickman Paul Enley Kyng
Caleb Peterson Sleigh
Dorothy Comingore Mrs. Purcell
Art Baker Mr. Reardon
Charley Enley Kyng (Clark Gable) is the owner of a high class gambling establishment. His business is untouchable since he has a good relationship with the police and many of the citizens patronize it.
He is diagnosed with a heart condition and his physician (Leon Ames) advices him to quit his stressful occupation for a quiet life. Being the breadwinner of his family and provider of his sister, Charley quits drinking and smoking for their sake.
Charley’s brother in law, Robbin Elcott (Wendell Corey), cannot pay a debt he owes to a gangster. The gangster sends goons Lew Debretti (Richard Rober) and Frank Sistina (William Conrad) to fetch him. Robbin is blackmailed and he later uses loaded dice to let them win at table craps.
Charley’s son Paul tells his mother Lon how he dislikes his father’s job. In an attempt to win his son’s favor, Charley tries to take his son on a fishing trip but he refuses. Mr. and Mrs. Logan later visit their house in demand of their money that they had lost at the casino.
Charley’s wife orders the couple out of their house telling them to report the matter to anyone they want to and never show up again. Charley congratulates his wife for the courageous act, but she feels it is not right way of making a living.
Despite his growing depression, Charley still rejects his rich former girlfriend who proposes they renew their relationship. Paul gets into a fight over his dad’s casino and he ends up in jail. Charley bails him out but Paul refuses to leave with him. Paul later goes with his mother to the casino to witness a showdown between his father and a wealthy Jim Kurstyn (Frank Morgan).
Luck seems to be on Jim’s side who intends to get even after a long spell of losing. Charley continues losing during the night but he keeps on playing fair. He later stakes his entire fortune and fortunately, he emerges the winner.
Jim’s goons Sistina and Debretti retaliate by trying to rob the casino. Charley overpowers the goons and sends them away. His heroic acts convince his son that he is a noble man and they reconcile.
Knowing that he can have his family back at the expense of the casino, Charley plays against his employees for the premise in a game he’s destined to lose. Charley, Lon, and Paul walk away happy after the match.
Any Number Can Play is an interesting studio drama written by Richard Brooks from a novel by Edward Harris Heth. With the direction of Mervyn LeRoy, the film is a classic 1949 piece typical of the gambling society in the period.
With a cast that perfectly fit their roles the acting cannot get any better. Charley is a bold and tough man who lives in his own code of honor and fairness. He is widely displayed in the scenes as a man who is always ready to help.
Alexis Smith plays Charley’s loyal wife that stands for the family even in crisis. She accommodates her unbothered in-laws in her house despite their disregard towards her.
Charley’s son is also presented as a principled boy who is wary of his father’s deals. He later succeeds to transform his father from his stressful business to a family man. Mary being the ex to Charley makes a single appearance, but her presence is strongly felt as she tests Charley’s loyalty.
Jim is seen as the unfair man who nearly brings Charley to poverty. The rest of the cast is also critical but a greater regard is to the director who perfectly fits them.
The fine black and white photography of Harold Rosson ensured that the print quality is superb. The opening of the film in a rainy night creates a good mood for a viewer. Later Charley is presented smoking cigarette that leads to his heart condition.
A great chemistry between Charley and his wife is evident with them being close at all times. The backdrop perfectly illustrates how the gambling business was popular during the time.
The director illustrates moral integrity and the importance of family. Despite Charley being successful in the business, he only quits it when he sees it will cost him his family. He turns down his ex- girlfriend and he even continues to play fair even with his premise at stake. He also takes good care of his in-laws and his workers at large.
I really enjoyed watching the movie despite its black and white quality. Being a great fan of the old classics, the film is an upgrade to all. Reviewing the film negatively based on the images is unfair. The story was captivating and clearly illustrated. A rating of 6.8/10 is nothing less than the movie deserves.