(director: John Farrow; screenwriters: based on the story by Ellis St. Joseph/John Twist; cinematographer: J. Roy Hunt; editor: Harry Marker; music: Dave Dreyer/Roy Webb; cast: Richard Dix (Bill Shear, aka William ‘Bill’ Shayne), Anita Louise (Mrs. Joanne Ryder), Gail Patrick (Jessie Gibbs Shayne), Paul Cavanagh (John ‘Johnny’ Banton), Louis Jean Heydt (Judge Jimmy Howard), Hobart Cavanaugh (Abe Compass), Charles Halton (Augustus ‘Gus’ Welch), Laura Hope Crews (Mrs. Gardner), Astrid Allwyn (Mrs. Flora McKenzie Kane), Joyce Compton (Bonnie Newcombe), Frank Faylen (J. Hezmer ‘Hezzy’ Briggs); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Sisk; RKO; 1939)
“Hokey morality tale that creaks from being so outdated.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
John Farrow (“My Bill”/”The Sea Chase”/”You Came Along”) directs this hokey morality tale that creaks from being so outdated. It’s based on the story by Ellis St. Joseph and written by John Twist.
Bill Shear (Richard Dix) is the respected elderly owner of a gambling casino in Reno, Nevada, and one of the pioneers who made the former mining town into the ‘Biggest Little City In The World.’ Rather than pay her gambling debt of $4,400 run up in the four nights while in Reno to obtain a divorce, Mrs. Joanne Ryder (Anita Louise) accuses Shear of running a crooked game and he’s placed on trial. Shear decides to defend himself, and uses his real name of Bill Shayne. The film goes into flashback as Bill chronicles how he came to the booming mining town of Reno as a young lawyer in 1905, how he married the love of his life Jessie Gibbs (Gail Patrick), began a successful law practice defending silver miners against the giant companies, and was a proud father to his daughter Joanne–the same woman accusing him of being a cheat.
Bill tells how the mines dried up and Reno was faced with becoming a ghost town until Bill found a loophole in Nevada law that allows for easy divorce because of the ease in which one can claim to be resident in the state. Now he’s a successful divorce lawyer, serving the rich, as Reno becomes the divorce capital of the country. Ironically, when Bill starts neglecting his wife and is always in the company of his lady clients, the jealous Jessie avails herself of the easy divorce laws in Reno and files for a divorce. After gaining the divorce when hubby pleads no contest, Jessie takes her daughter back East and marries the wealthy socialite John Banton she met in Reno. Bill hits the skids and changes his name, as he is disbarred by his colleagues over his lack of virtue. But he again comes out on top by opening a gambling casino. His only regret is the divorce, and thereby he wants to do everything in his power stop his daughter from making the same mistake–therefore he cheated to teach her lesson. Father and daughter reconcile as she drops the charges against her dad, and then agrees to go back to her loving husband and give the marriage another chance.
The story is so trite, uninteresting and preposterous, that for the sheer hell of it I think I would rather play on Bill’s crooked roulette wheel that sit through this nonsense again.
REVIEWED ON 1/5/2009 GRADE: C-