The Big Gamble (1931)

61, 63 or 65 mins | Drama | 4 September 1931

Director:

Fred Niblo

Cinematographer:

Hal Mohr

Editor:

Joseph I. Kane

Production Designer:

Carroll Clark

Production Company:

RKO Pathé Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Iron Chalice . The Var review described the picture as "a loosely woven tale never plausible, calling attention to the fact that Octavus Roy Cohen [the novelist] excels in negro comedy short stories and not in crime melodramas." According to FD , Bill Boyd and his co-star, Dorothy Sebastian, had been married only a few months when they made this picture. In 1926, William K. Howard directed Rod La Rocque in Red Dice , a DeMille Pictures production of Cohen's novel (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Iron Chalice . The Var review described the picture as "a loosely woven tale never plausible, calling attention to the fact that Octavus Roy Cohen [the novelist] excels in negro comedy short stories and not in crime melodramas." According to FD , Bill Boyd and his co-star, Dorothy Sebastian, had been married only a few months when they made this picture. In 1926, William K. Howard directed Rod La Rocque in Red Dice , a DeMille Pictures production of Cohen's novel (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.4496). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
6 May 31
p. 4.
Film Daily
3 Jun 31
p. 6.
Film Daily
30 Aug 31
p. 4.
Film Daily
27 Sep 31
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald
26 Sep 31
p. 28.
New York Times
21 Sep 31
p. 20.
Variety
22 Sep 31
p. 26.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Charles R. Rogers Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Sd eng
PRODUCTION MISC
Still photog
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Iron Chalice by Octavus Roy Cohen (Boston, 1925).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Iron Chalice
Release Date:
4 September 1931
Copyright Claimant:
RKO-Pathé Distributing Corp.
Copyright Date:
4 September 1931
Copyright Number:
LP2449
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Photophone System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
61, 63 or 65
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

On New Year's Eve, professional gambler Alan Beckwith approaches mobster Andrew North, to whom he is heavily in debt, with a proposition: If North lends him $7,500 to buy a life insurance policy, he will name North as the policy's beneficiary and then commit suicide, thereby "squaring" himself with interest. North agrees to the idea but insists that, to assure payment on a $100,000 policy, Alan must marry and live for one year before giving up his life. Although he disdains the idea of an arranged marriage, Alan accepts North's terms and weds Beverly Ames, whose brother Johnnie, a truck driver for the gang, has been accused of a double-cross and has been threatened with death. At first, Alan and Beverly, who have been set up in a lavish apartment by North, maintain their distance from each other, but as the months pass, their fear and suspicion turn to mutually felt attraction. Determined to discover why Beverly agreed to marry him, Alan visits Mae Robbins, Johnnie's girl friend, who tells him about Johnnie's trouble with North and Beverly's subsequent self-sacrifice for her brother. At the same time, Beverly goes to see North to find out why Alan married her. Once their motives are revealed, Alan and Beverly confess their love and vow to work together to repay North his investment. To raise the necessary cash, Beverly takes a secretarial job, while Alan becomes a representative for a development company. On New Year's Eve, a day before North's contract is to expire, Alan tells North that he has made enough money to repay him, but North refuses the money and insists on collecting ... +


On New Year's Eve, professional gambler Alan Beckwith approaches mobster Andrew North, to whom he is heavily in debt, with a proposition: If North lends him $7,500 to buy a life insurance policy, he will name North as the policy's beneficiary and then commit suicide, thereby "squaring" himself with interest. North agrees to the idea but insists that, to assure payment on a $100,000 policy, Alan must marry and live for one year before giving up his life. Although he disdains the idea of an arranged marriage, Alan accepts North's terms and weds Beverly Ames, whose brother Johnnie, a truck driver for the gang, has been accused of a double-cross and has been threatened with death. At first, Alan and Beverly, who have been set up in a lavish apartment by North, maintain their distance from each other, but as the months pass, their fear and suspicion turn to mutually felt attraction. Determined to discover why Beverly agreed to marry him, Alan visits Mae Robbins, Johnnie's girl friend, who tells him about Johnnie's trouble with North and Beverly's subsequent self-sacrifice for her brother. At the same time, Beverly goes to see North to find out why Alan married her. Once their motives are revealed, Alan and Beverly confess their love and vow to work together to repay North his investment. To raise the necessary cash, Beverly takes a secretarial job, while Alan becomes a representative for a development company. On New Year's Eve, a day before North's contract is to expire, Alan tells North that he has made enough money to repay him, but North refuses the money and insists on collecting the $100,000. Desperate, Alan finds a casino and begins betting heavily in a poker game, unaware that Johnnie is on his way to confront North. With help from Squint Dugan, an insurance investigator posing as one of North's gangsters, Alan rescues Johnnie from North's men, while North is killed during a fierce car chase with police. At last free from North's web, Alan and Beverly look forward to a happy, uneventful married life. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.