The adopted daughter of New-York-City gambler, Al Draper, elopes from quarantine (key plot word) with another voyager from Europe. Later she is found murdered in a hotel room. Draper is ...
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The adopted daughter of New-York-City gambler, Al Draper, elopes from quarantine (key plot word) with another voyager from Europe. Later she is found murdered in a hotel room. Draper is dissatisfied with the handling of the case by the district attorney and sets out to work the case himself. [For a film tagged elsewhere as having limited distribution and bookings, this film was playing at the Martini Theatre in Galveston, Texas in 1935.]Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
'Yankee Doodle Dandy' is a great film marred by one embarrassing scene in which retired song-and-dance man George M. Cohan (played by James Cagney) tells some jitterbugging teenagers that he never appeared in any movies. This statement simply isn't true: Cohan made several films. When 'Yankee Doodle Dandy' was being filmed in Hollywood, the real George M. Cohan was dying of cancer on the East coast ... but his personal representative at Warner Brothers made sure that this movie was filmed to suit Cohan's whim. It was probably memories of his movie 'Gambling' that made Cohan insist that his film career be retroactively unhappened.
'Gambling' is one of those sad films which no longer exist because they were deliberately destroyed by their own makers. Originally, 'Gambling' was a stage drama, written by and starring Cohan, that flopped on Broadway in 1929. Cohan starred in a low-budget film version five years later. Reportedly, the finished product was so dire that Cohan asked producer Harold Franklin to destroy all prints and the negative. Franklin appears to have complied: the film was previewed and briefly released, yet all prints vanished shortly afterwards.
This IMDb review is based on the surviving screenplay of 'Gambling', plus Cohan's original stage script. 'Gambling' is rather a dire piece of work. It's meant to be a whodunit with some touches of comedy relief, but it comes closer to the genre of crime story known in Britain as 'thick-ear' ... in which characters basically try to out-tough each other.
Cohan, repeating his stage role, stars as Draper: a professional gambler who travels through all the seamier sections of New York's underworld, yet who is respected by everyone because he himself is (wait for it) completely honest. This *honest* gambler is so successful that he can afford to dress like a dandy and live in a swank house with his sweet young ward Marie (Katherine Standing) ... supported entirely by Draper's gambling winnings. When Draper isn't winning card games honestly, he's busy exposing crooked gamblers. A lead character like this is unbelievable *and* unsympathetic.
Even though Draper is popular and respected, somebody decides to get revenge on Draper by murdering his ward Marie. Instead of going to the police, Draper decides to solve the murder himself (of course). In a long, long, LONG string of sequential scenes, he crosses paths with colourful characters such as Maizie the madame, Dorothy the repentant prostitute, and a bunch of tough cops.
'Gambling' is allegedly a mystery, with Draper as the amateur detective ... but Cohan's 'detection' methods consist of having Draper browbeat one suspect after another, on and on and on, in scenes that don't build ... until finally one very arbitrary character confesses. There are no clues for the audience to follow in this 'mystery'. The 'comedy' consists largely of Cohan speaking directly to the camera: just like Groucho Marx, but with nothing funny to say. At one point Cohan injects some heavy-handed philosophy, as his character notes that we're all of us gamblers in one sense or another ... that the very act of living is a form of gambling.
'Gambling' was probably a very poor film. But George M. Cohan was a vitally important stage performer, so every piece of film footage in which he appeared has historic interest. For all this movie's undoubted faults, it's regrettable that 'Gambling' was deliberately destroyed. 'Gambling' was directed by Rowland V. Lee, who did excellent work in other films ... so this movie probably had at least a few good points. What a shame that we'll never know for certain.
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