Direction Michael Gordon
Production Michael Kraike
Scenario Roy Huggins
Cinematography Russell Metty
Music Frank Skinner
Editor Milton Carruth
Story by Lewis Meltzer, Oscar Saul
Genre Drama, Film- Noir
Running Time 99 min
Country United States
Actor Movie Character
- Barbara Stanwyck Joan Phillips Boothe
- Robert Preston David Boothe
- Stephen McNally Horace Corrigan
- Edith Barrett Ruth Phillips
- John Hoyt Dr. Rojac
- Elliot Sullivan Barky
- John Harmon Frenchy
- Phillip Van Zandt Chuck Benson
- Leif Erickson Tony
- Curt Conway Bank Clerk
- Houseley Stevenson Pawnbroker
- Don Beddoe Mr. Dennis Sutherland
- Nana Bryant Mrs. Dennis Sutherland
- Tony Curtis Bellboy (as Anthony Curtis)
- Peter Leeds Jack Harrison, Hotel Clerk
- Frank Moran Murphy
- Esther Howard Gross Lady
- John Indrisano Bert
The film is a flashback by David Boothe (Robert Preston) on how gambling alienated him from his wife, Joan Phillips Boothe (Barbara Stanwyck). He tells Joan’s doctor what actually led to her addiction.
They are both reporters from Chicago. Duty calls and the pair heads to Las Vegas. David is on an assignment about the Hoover Dam, in Nevada.
While in Nevada, Joan visits a Las Vegas casino for a potential story. The casino owner, Horace Corrigan (Stephen McNally) notices that she is investigating something with a concealed camera. Rather than ejecting her from the premise, he gives her a few casino chips to gamble with. It is then where Joan’s addiction to gambling begins.
Joan spends more time on the casino gaining the title “Lady Luck”. She gambles with David’s expense funds and she loses it. Fortunately, she pawns her camera and she eventually wins the money back. The sudden arrival of her dominating sister Ruth (Edith Barrett) forces her to stay back in Vegas while her husband heads back home.
Corrigan teases Joan and she later joins his team. During a gaming night, David calls Ruth asking about the whereabouts of his wife. Ruth tells him about Joan’s indulgence in gambling and he decides to return to Vegas.
David quits his job and he whisks his broke and depressed wife to Mexico, where he intends to write a book. Their happiness is short- lived as Joan meets a couple from Las Vegas who get her into a dice game. Joan eventually loses all of their life savings.
David splits his remaining cash with her and later plans to file a divorce. Stranded and having nowhere else to go, Joan returns to Corrigan who later hires her as the front for a horse racing operation.
She heads back to her contorted ways and even partners with Frenchy (John Harmon), a crooked gambler. David finally meets his desperate wife hospitalized and under the doctor’s watch. He must persuade her of a better way of living so as to rescue their marriage.
The title “The Lady Gambles” is reason enough to suggest that the lady is doing something odd. In an era whereby gambling films dominated, the witty producer Michael Kraike comes up with a film depicting gambling, but this time by a lady.
The film dabbles in psychology and the impact gambling plays in destroying a relationship. The opening scene just creates suspense and you are enticed to know what happened to the hurting lady. The storytelling style whereby her husband narrates to the audience what led to her hospitalization is just outstanding. There is no a better way to start a movie.
The plot is all about thrill and precaution to anyone who fancies gambling life. A simple decision of joining the ponies leads Joan to misery. Film noir prevails as a genre in the film.
Produced at an era where there was too much violence and poverty, the film is a true reflection of the pessimism and fatality at the time. The plot is delivered by an appealing cast that clearly portray the drama and morality tale of the main character.
The casting of the queen of film noir Joan Phillips Boothe (Barbara Stanwyck) as the lead was just exceptional. She innocently ventures into gambling while in a business trip to Vegas. She is versatile and so compelling to watch in every scene she plays. She ventures into a men dominated game and takes them head on.
However, Joan’s adventurous nature is her outdoing as she loses her career and ends up in a hospital bed. David Boothe (Robert Preston) plays the loving and caring husband. He is not ready to give up on his wife. He actually narrates to us the whole film.
Ruth plays the compulsive sister that is ready to condemn her sister’s vices. Casino owner Horrace is actually the mastermind to Joan’s sudden downfall. A mere casino chips from him are enough to ensure that she later loses her entire savings.
From the superb cinematography of Las Vegas, lonely beach in Mexico, casino and the hospital backdrop the producer brilliantly portrays the film. The movie serves as a moral lesson to anyone planning to venture into gambling. The activity may look good from the outside but its effects are so severe.
However, the film still seems dark in contrast to other films of the era. Violence depicted with people beating up Joan to almost death might be disturbing to younger viewers. The scenes of romance also between Joan and Horrace also are unsuitable for young viewers. Despite the plot being educative, it might be only relevant to people exposed to gambling.
All in all, the introduction of the film was enticing enough for me to watch the whole movie. A good movie to watch with an outstanding female main cast in a male dominated world. A rating of 6.6 out of 10 clearly describes my experience.