Cast & Crew
C. Aubrey Smith
Honest gambler Mike Lee commits suicide rather than succumb to the pressures of a gambling syndicate, headed by Jim Fallin, which wants him to run a crooked game. Charlie Lang, a player for the syndicate at the racetrack, takes up a collection for his daughter, Jennifer Lady Lee, and when he delivers it, he proposes to her. She gently turns him down, partly because he is playing a dishonest game and partly because she does not really love him. He accepts her dismissal, but they remain friends. Needing a job, Lady asks Fallin for a chance to play for the syndicate, but insists that she will only play in honest games. He sets her up playing with Park Avenue businessmen, and she becomes both a financial and a social success, especially after the men learn that she wins her games honestly. She particularly impresses a man she knows only as Peter, who had known her father, and they become friendly. One night, while playing at a society party, she meets Garry Madison, whose flirtations she discourages in spite of her own attraction to him. Her attraction turns to dislike, however, after a private club is raided because Garry naively allowed men he did not know to accompany him into the club. After she is bailed out by Charlie, Garry convinces Lady that he had nothing to do with the raid, and she agrees to go dancing with him. To prove his intention to marry her, he brings her home to meet his father. Nervous at first, she relaxes when she learns that her old friend Peter is Garry's father. To her surprise, when Garry leaves the room, Peter offers her a large sum if she will agree not to marry his son. Rather than fight, Lady turns to leave without the money. Ever the gambler, Peter offers to cut cards for Garry and Lady wins. Garry and Lady marry and the marriage is happy. When Sheila Aiken, a friend of Garry, returns from Europe, however, she determines to prove that Lady is not an appropriate wife for Garry. Lady challenges Sheila to a game and ends by winning her jewelry. Both Sheila and Garry are aghast when they learn that Lady intends to keep the jewelry. Later Charlie is arrested, and Lady asks Garry for money to post his bail. After Garry refuses her request because he is jealous of her friendship with Charlie, she pawns Sheila's jewelry. Charlie tells Lady that he has information on the syndicate and plans to blackmail Fallin. Just as Lady is explaining to Charlie that she cannot see him anymore, Garry walks in and throws him out of the house. After he learns that she pawned Sheila's jewels, Garry runs after Charlie to retrieve the pawn ticket. He does not return that night, and the next morning, Lady learns that Charlie is dead and that Garry has been accused of the murder. She tries to convince the police that the syndicate murdered Charlie, but they tell her that Garry will not reveal where he was when the murder occurred. Realizing that Garry believed she was in love with Charlie, Lady suspects that he spent the night with Sheila. She confronts her rival and learns that her suspicions are true, but that Sheila will not give Garry an alibi unless Lady divorces him. To save her husband, Lady agrees to Sheila's demands. Peter is stunned when he learns that Lady does not intend to forgive Garry and accuses her of being a fortune hunter. Witnessing her behavior after the divorce is granted, however, Peter begins to suspect the truth and, with Garry's help, worms a confession from Sheila. Garry and Peter find Lady about to sail for Europe and Garry and she are reconciled.
C. Aubrey Smith
McCrea's first ambition was to be a rancher, but a drama instructor at Pomona College insisted that his height, looks, and industry connections meant opportunity. Work now as an actor, the teacher told him, and you'll earn enough to own your own ranch later. Sure enough, he found work quickly, and new friends too: When his part as an extra was cut from a Marion Davies movie, she invited him to San Simeon, where her usually protective boyfriend William Randolph Hearst quickly dubbed McCrea the "All-American Boy." McCrea didn't stay an extra for long, and soon landed leads in films like The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and Gambling Lady.
Directed by Archie Mayo, Gambling Lady was, by Pre-Code standards, a tame romp into the zone where gambling syndicates and high society intersect. When an honest card sharp commits suicide rather than go crooked, his daughter Lady Lee (Stanwyck) steps into his place, winning great sums for herself (and her bosses) while keeping the game fair and square. But when handsome high society swain Garry (McCrea, looking about as good in a tuxedo as is humanly possible) steps into a game, she's smitten - not realizing that their ill-matched pairing between high and low society might be a sucker bet.
Stanwyck didn't think much of Mayo, "a rude, fat man" prone to pinching actresses' bottoms (she grabbed his arm the first - and presumably last - time he tried pinching hers). But the actress liked McCrea. He, in turn, marveled at her professionalism, and how, if a take was blown it was always because of his stumble, not hers. But she also gave him a frank lesson in professionalism the day he was absent from shooting stills of the cast. (It wasn't McCrea's fault - nobody told him about the shoot, especially the publicist who figured no one would miss an RKO actor on loan.) At lunch Stanwyck cornered McCrea. "Where the hell were you for stills?" When McCrea shrugged and said they didn't need him, Stanwyck gave him a tongue lashing. "I was in burlesque. We used to have to change our clothes on the train, and our makeup, and we couldn't take a bath and we lived out of a suitcase. You've grown up in California where you go to the beach on your days off and ride the waves, and you're a happy Southern Californian kid. Just get off your big fat ass and get to work."
McCrea took her candid advice to heart, and he and Stanwyck became great friends during the filming of Gambling Lady. McCrea had married actress Frances Dee in October 1933, a very happy union that lasted until his death almost 60 years later, but you'd never know he was a committed newlywed from the sensual way he and Stanwyck roll around and paw each other in scenes that wouldn't pass muster a year later under a bolstered Production Code. Their chemistry is a study in complementary opposites: He's amiable where she's brittle, and he's smooth where she's tough, but the carnality between their characters is undisguisable. Stanwyck and McCrea made six movies together, and when Stanwyck was later cast in Internes Can't Take Money (1937), she specifically asked director Al Santell to cast McCrea as well. "I want this guy," she told him. "He's gonna be a good leading man."
Director: Archie Mayo
Screenplay: Doris Malloy (screenplay and story); Ralph Block (screenplay)
Cinematography: George Barnes
Art Direction: Anton Grot
Film Editing: Harold McLernon
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Lady Lee), Joel McCrea (Garry Madison), Pat O'Brien (Charlie Lang), Claire Dodd (Sheila Aiken), C. Aubrey Smith (Peter Madison), Robert Barrat (Mike Lee), Arthur Vinton (Jim Fallin), Phillip Reed (Steve), Philip Faversham (Don Carroway), Robert Elliott (Graves).
by Violet LeVoit
McGilligan, Patrick. Film Crazy: Interviews With Hollywood Legends. St. Martins Press. 2000
Madsen, Axel. Stanwyck. Harper Collins, 1994
Kobal, John. People Will Talk. Alfred A. Knopf, 1985
Nott, Robert. Last Of The Cowboy Heroes. McFarland & Company, 2000.
C'mon, girly. Put on your hairnet. We're going places.- Detective
Barbara Stanwyck starred in a 1949 Universal film entitled The Lady Gambles, directed by Michael Gordon, however that film has not relation to Gambling Lady.