Universal by late 40's was back in cheese trade.
Their try at prestige had gone a-flounder, thanks to frequent flops.
1949 would usher in cheaper westerns, garlanded with color to good result, sand-and-sex w/ Yvonne De Carlo plus others at appropriate talent
level, and on the way --- Ma/Pa Kettle and Francis the chatting mule. Here wasprofit's way to go, and it worked. U would lay a banquet table for Decca
Records' eventual takeover, then creeping takeover that was MCA. What of good
pictures amidst this exploitation? One was The Lady Gambles, which took serious
account of card/dice play as crippling addiction, Barbara Stanwyck staging
downfall to make Lost Weekender Ray Milland scarlet with envy. So what did
Universal do with so valued a property? Sell it like piano roll in a
whorehouse, per usual. Must have --- in fact, did --- make creative participants
blanch. But this was Universal, so what could they expect?
Director Michael Gordon was interviewed years
later by Ronald L. Davis (Just Making Movies, excellent book) and would
complain of the title. The Lady Gambles atop lurid ads was no lure to Academy
votes, despite Stanwyck a more than deserving lead. Interesting howpostwar saw
Davis/Crawford having their up/downs (mostly downs), while Stanwyck did
continuous good ones minus fuss. Gordon spoke of her no-temperament and good
humored finish of work. I toted her 50's record against actresses at similar
level and found Stanwyck charting far ahead in terms of still-watchable
(Executive Suite,The Violent Men), or latelycultish (Witness To Murder,There's Always Tomorrow).Throw inTitanic, To Please A Lady, Blowing Wild, Jeopardy, work with Mann, Siodmak,
Dwan ... Stanwyck quadruples quality work any of others did. Of these, The Lady
Gambles ranks comparative minor, yet a winner and worth the seek after Universal's
DVD set of it and five others with the actress. Released in 2010, back when U
still had transfer standards (check the recent Alan Ladds and see how far
that's slipped), the Stanwyck set is safe bet for The Lady Gambles alone.
There is location at Las Vegas as it was in beginnings. Stanwyck
and screen husband Robert Preston (very good) visit Boulder Dam a year before Edmond O' Brien ran loosethere. Treatment of gamble habit is cautious; we're shown it's OK in
moderation, Stanwyck's character stood in stark relief to calm companions who
bet for recreation and know when to quit. U had to tread soft to get
site privileges. The town would not have welcomed a black eye from filmmakers,
or depiction of gambling as potential sickness to be shunned. So who negotiated
terms of depiction? The Lady Gambles was surely Mafia-vetted to some
degree, the place built wholly on crime dimes and policed on self-help terms.
Gangland operates in the film, but on margins, bad eggs tending to float in from out of
town, and headed good-riddance way once schemes collapse. The LadyGambles
would make splendid pairing with Casino. Has anyone thought to combine them?
Gordon said he "really researched" the addiction angle, and it plays
credible. I'm not sure there had been a movie before 1949 that took the problem
serious. The Lady Gambles is a fine one that should have got more credit then,
and certainly recognition now.