Any Number Can Play (1949) was shown recently on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). Host Ben Mankiewicz chose to screen it right after Gilda (1946) because both movies dealt with casinos and the people who run them and how that affects the people in their lives. Any Number Can Play has a terrific cast. It stars Clark Gable who was still a major star but according to Mankiewicz needed something to boost his career after a bit of a slump after WWII. Gable also had to compete with the new popular media: Television. So instead of a fancy film about casinos, this one is more about the emotional toll casinos and gambling take on the folks involved.
Clark Gable plays Charley Kyng, the owner of an underground casino. The years of dealing with staff, gangsters and gamblers has taken a toll on him. He's developed a pain in his chest (angina) and wants to take some time off. But it's harder to pry himself free from his business than he thought. He sees how his choice of career is affecting his family: his wife Lon (Alexis Smith) is sad and worried and his son Paul (Darryl Hickman) lashes out.
This film has a terrific cast. Audrey Totter plays Alice, Charley Kyng's sister, and Wendell Corey plays her husband Robbin who works at the casino. Mary Astor plays Ada, Charley's old lover who still harbors strong feelings for Charley even though he won't reciprocate. Frank Morgan plays a regular at the casino.
Image Source: Another Old Movie Blog
And then there is Lewis Stone. Oh my goodness. How I do love Lewis Stone. I have a serious soft spot for him. Lewis Stone plays Ben, an old widower and ex-insurance agent with a penchant for drink and gambling. In one scene, he comes to Charley (Clark Gable) for a loan. He's done it several times in the past but this time he has collateral. He leaves behind the flask his deceased wife Imogee left to him. It's at this point where I just burst in to tears. A lot of tears. Every single scene with Lewis Stone just gets me crying. Balling. Sobbing. Lewis Stone. I'll save you! Don't give up! I'll adopt you! Let me give you a hug!
I also really sympathized with Clark Gable's character Charley. I have been having some bad chest pains too (although mine are muscle related due to an inflammation around my rib cage). It gets worse with every day stress of work, chores and other health problems. I wish I was in the situation where I had enough money to take a break. But alas I don't.
The film has a good cast but it moves very slowly. It could have used the noir touch for some added intensity and drama. The promotional poster (see above) says this film is not suitable for children but it's not as dark as it pretends to be. It's worth watching for the terrific cast though.
Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Movies selected are rented from Classicflix, watched on TCM or purchased from Warner Archive, Classicflix or TCM. This series is not sponsored by Warner Archive.