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GRAND SLAM (director: William Dieterle; screenwriter: based on a novel Grand Slam: The Rise and Fall of a Bridge Wizard by B. Russell Hertz/David Boehm/Erwin S. Gelsey; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: Jack Killifer; music: Bernhard Kaun; cast: Paul Lukas (Peter Stanislavsky), Loretta Young (Marcia Stanislavsky), Frank McHugh (Philip ‘Speed’ McCann), Glenda Farrell (Blondie), Helen Vinson (Lola Starr), Roscoe Karns (Contest Radio Announcer), Ferdinand Gottschalk (Cedric Van Dorn), Joseph Cawthorn (Alex Alexandrovitch, Peter’s Investor); Runtime: 67; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Warner Bros.; 1933)
“It can’t make its opening bid of seven spades.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

German-emigre William Dieterle (“Her Majesty Love”/”The Hunchback of Notre Dame”/”Juarez”) directs a silly comedy about the travails of contract bridge and spoofs the raging 1930s bridge craze sweeping America. It’s never funny, but it’s breezy. Though it might have had value during its day, today it can’t make its opening bid of seven spades.

Russian-emigre Peter Stanislavsky (Paul Lukas) was a serious writer in the old sod but in America is a nightclub waiter who marries the pretty hat check gal Marcia (Loretta Young), an avid bridge player. Peter belittles bridge as a childish game, but when serving as a waiter in the Park Avenue residence of socialite Lola Starr (Helen Vinson) he’s asked to sit in as fourth in a bridge game with the self-important Cedric Van Dorn (Ferdinand Gottschalk). Peter wins the game and gets publicity for beating the world famous expert; which prompts him to say he’s writing a book on the Stanislavsky method of playing contract bridge. It’s ghost written by the couple’s pesty acquaintance Speed McCann (Frank McHugh), who also was the ghost writer for Van Dorn’s book, and becomes a best-seller, as it’s promoted as a family game where couples learn to never argue about their gamesmanship anymore. The Stanislavskys become rich and famous as America’s bridge sweethearts, but soon Peter starts taking his bridge playing seriously and they have a spat. Speed gets ticked off at Peter for punching him out when his wife leaves him and tells the press that Peter’s a fraud. The once happy couple get together for one last bridge game and then quit, as they realize there’s no system that’s perfect in bridge and playing bridge can only lead to spats between the partners.

Maybe bridge players will like it better than pinochle players; as for me, I’m a “shoot the moon” hearts player and could care less about bridge or this pic.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”