(director: Gerald Mayer; screenwriter: story by Guy Trosper/Guy Trosper; cinematographer: Ray June; editor: Newell Kimlin; music: Lennie Hayton; cast: David Brian (Rip MacCool), Arlene Dahl (Lily Douvane), Barry Sullivan (Johnny Sanderson), Mercedes McCambridge(Ada Stritch), Lon Chaney (Shocker), Paula Raymond (Zoe Carnot), John Hoyt (Flutey Johnson), Roland Winters (Alexander Tomson ), Claude Jarman Jr. (Rip MacCool, at 16), Jerry Hartleben (John MacCool at 3), Dale Hartleben (John MacCool at 5), Percy Helton (Lawyer); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard Goldstone; MGM; 1951)
“Flatly directed by Gerald Mayer, nephew of MGM-head Louis B. Mayer.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A lackluster black and white melodrama. It’s flatly directed by Gerald Mayer, nephew of MGM-head Louis B. Mayer(“The Sellout”/”Holiday for Sinners”/”Bright Road”). Guy Trosper wrote both the story and script.
The b/w pic is set in the 1870s in San Francisco, as we follow the life story of a ruthless and unscrupulous financial tycoon, Rip MacCool (David Brian), and his meteoric rise from poverty to the top of booming San Francisco society. The pic opens as the greedy tycoon, Rip, plays five-card stud poker with banker Ada Stritch (Mercedes McCambridge) and bets his life earnings of three million dollars against Ada’s bank securities and she can win if she sees if he has a four in his hole card to draw an inside straight. The winner will own the bank, the loser will be bankrupt. While they play their game in front of a few onlookers connected with his life story, the tycoon’s life is recalled through flashback. We learn his 49er parents died broke in a cholera epidemic when he was 16, and left him only the worthless Mona Lisa mining stock. Rip is obsessed with making money, any way he can, and teams with loyal Serbian miner Shocker (Lon Chaney), who befriended him on the job after his parents died. From there we follow Rip wheeling and dealing as he claws his way to the top. First, when arriving in San Francisco, as a young adult, he makes a fast-deal to buy the hotel owned by the uptight Ada, then he makes a bundle in the stock market by hooking up with slippery tycoon Alexander Tomson (Roland Winters) and is soon lured into a business arrangement marriage with the cold-hearted fortune hunter beauty Lily Douvane (Arlene Dahl). Despite their loveless marriage, they have a son John (JerryHartleben at 3, Dale Hartleben at 5), who is raised by a French governess, Zoe (Paula Raymond). After five years, Lily divorces the tycoon and takes him for a bundle but lets him keep his son. Rip’s friend, crusading small-fry newspaper editor, Johnny Sanderson (Barry Sullivan), proposes to Zoe, but she instead accepts her boss’s cold business arrangement proposal and says she did it so she can give the kid a proper home.
I tuned out long before Ada called Rip’s poker hand, as the dull character study of a selfish man and just as dull historical period drama failed to ignite any sparks to hold my interest.
REVIEWED ON 10/29/2013 GRADE: C+