Saturday, May 3, 2014

King of Gamblers - A round up of reviews

King of Gamblers was officially released on this day in 1937. The film is an underworld crime drama about the slot-machine racket and the crusading reporter who uncovers it. The film was sometimes referred to and was shown under the title Czar of the Slot Machines. [This 1937 film should not be confused with a later release, King of the Gamblers, from 1948.]

The film stars Claire Trevor (as nightclub singer Dixie Moore), Lloyd Nolan (as reporter Jim Adams), Akim Tamiroff (as gangster Steve Kalkas), Buster Crabbe (as Eddie), Helen Burgess (as Jackie Nolan), Evelyn Brent (as Cora), and Natalie Moorhead (as woman at table). Scenes with Louise Brooks playing the role of Joyce Beaton were cut, and it is not known if they still exist.

Though only a "B" picture from Paramount, King of Gamblers was given "A" treatment by noted director Robert Florey. The film was based on a story by Tiffany Thayer, who is best known today for his novel Call Her Savage, the basis for the 1932 Clara Bow film, as well as for being a founder of the founder of the Fortean Society. King of Gamblers was scripted by Doris Anderson with uncredited contributions by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.

With its expressionist flourishes, King of Gamblers might be considered an early example of film noir (attention Eddie Muller). When first released, the film was both praised and condemned. Some noted its realism, while others thought it too violent. Here is a round up of magazine and newspaper reviews and articles drawn from the Louise Brooks Society archive.

Evelyn Brent and Louise Brooks pose for a
publicity photo for King of Gamblers

author unknown. Hollywood Reporter, April 13, 1937.
--- "This is an excellent crime melodrama on the program level that, without departing radically from established plot elements, progresses by so much fresh and believable episode and builds for such high suspense that it will win general approval."

author unknown. Box Office, April 24, 1937.
--- "Given the benefit of superior production, this film is meaty but highly entertaining fare."

author unknown. Motion Picture Review, May, 1937.
--- "Such a picture as this has no constructive social value."

anonymous. "Monitor Movie Guide." Christian Science Monitor, May 1, 1937.
--- "Sociological aspects of the theme are quite overshadowed by melodramatics which may prove too violent for the more sensitive."

author unknown. Philadelphia Exhibitor, May 1, 1937.
--- "Above average racketeer story, this is packed with fast action, suspense."

Southern California Council of Federated Church Women. Fox West Coast Bulletin, May 8, 1937.
--- "Not wholesome. Waste of time."

anonymous. "King of Gamblers Exciting Film On Screen At Allyn." Hartford Courant, May 21, 1937.
--- "Three personalities who until a short time ago were among the obscurities of filmdom but are now definitely headed for the peaks of stardom, appear in the principal roles in King of Gamblers, the exciting, at times startling and occasionally almost too brutally realistic. . . ."

author unknown. National Council of Jewish Women, May 25, 1937.
--- "Excellent direction of a well chosen cast adds materially to this interesting expose of 'slot machine' racketeers."

C(risler), B. R. "At the Criterion." New York Times, July 3, 1937.
--- "Unscrupulous editing and the conscienceless substitution of camera angles and mechanical dissolves for ideas and genuine suspense have made a superficially presentable melodrama out of King of Gamblers at the Criterion."

Lusk, Nobert. "Unheralded Film Lauded by Broadways." Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1937.
--- "An unpretentious picture that tops in interest and appeal those which arrive on Broadway with benefit of ballyhoo."

anonymous. "A Brisk Drama Of Gamesters Clicks at Met." Washington Post, July 31, 1937.
--- "The cold chills and icy thrills of King of Gamblers make the Metropolitan air-conditioning quite superfluous. If you are one for hard-boiled homicides mixed in with your entertainment, this show will give you a good time and a half."

author unknown. "King of Gamblers, by Thayer, Racket Expose, Is at the Capitol." Atlanta Constitution, August 1, 1937.
--- "Tiffany Thayer, one of America's outstanding writers on crime and rackets, comes through with another winner in King of Gamblers, a during story of the slot machine racket as it exists in many cities, which opens a week's engagement at the Capitol theater...."

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