For Reel

Gambling Lady (1934)
July 18, 2012, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Archie Mayo

Joel McCrea and Barbara Stanwyck were paired for the first time as lovers in Gambling Lady, a Warner Brothers pre-Code that examines the uneasy intersection between high and low societies. Stanwyck plays the daughter of an honest gambler who commits suicide rather than turn crooked, and McCrea is a blue-blood who accidentally gets her arrested. Though the proceedings are agreeable and breezy, there is little to distinguish it from the pack – Mayo goes through all of the beats expected of both a crime picture and a romantic melodrama without much thought or visual sophistication. Only Stanwyck’s relationship with older men manages to provide some genuine intrigue. Early on, it’s treated as a surprise to see that the man she has been talking to is her father and not her lover – she calls him Mike, rubs his shoulders, even kisses him on the lips before they part. Once he is dead, she displaces this interest in McCrea’s often present father – just before the credits roll, she embraces McCrea for a kiss, only to reach so far around him that she holds hands with his father, as if suggesting a perverse love triangle.

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