The Gambler (1974)

R | 109 or 111 mins | Drama | 1974

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HISTORY

Jerry Field's onscreen credit reads: "Music scored and conducted by, based on Symphony No. 1 by Gustav Mahler." The closing credits include citations for the literary works that "Axel Freed" mentions in his lectures and to his girlfriend "Billie:" "In the American Grain," by William Carlos Williams; the poem “buffalo bill's defunct,” by e.e. cummings and Notes from Underground , by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by A. R. MacAndrew. As noted in HR charts and other contemporary sources, The Gambler was shot on location in New York and Las Vegas. As noted in a 20 Nov 1973 HR item, a week of interior shooting took place in Caesars Palace hotel and casino, Las Vegas. Modern sources add Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs to the cast.
       Newsweek and other sources noted that writer James Toback was clearly influenced by the Dostoyevsky novel The Gambler (1866). The name of the novel's hero, “Alexei,” as well as the character's immature, obsessive and self-destructive nature, mirrors that of Axel Freed. In Dostoyevsky's novel, Alexei, a tutor, rationalizes his gambling even as it threatens to ruin his life. While the end of the film presents a pessimistic ending for Axel, who seems bent on his own destruction, the novel implies that Alexei might be able to break his compulsive gambling through the love of a ... More Less

Jerry Field's onscreen credit reads: "Music scored and conducted by, based on Symphony No. 1 by Gustav Mahler." The closing credits include citations for the literary works that "Axel Freed" mentions in his lectures and to his girlfriend "Billie:" "In the American Grain," by William Carlos Williams; the poem “buffalo bill's defunct,” by e.e. cummings and Notes from Underground , by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, translated by A. R. MacAndrew. As noted in HR charts and other contemporary sources, The Gambler was shot on location in New York and Las Vegas. As noted in a 20 Nov 1973 HR item, a week of interior shooting took place in Caesars Palace hotel and casino, Las Vegas. Modern sources add Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs to the cast.
       Newsweek and other sources noted that writer James Toback was clearly influenced by the Dostoyevsky novel The Gambler (1866). The name of the novel's hero, “Alexei,” as well as the character's immature, obsessive and self-destructive nature, mirrors that of Axel Freed. In Dostoyevsky's novel, Alexei, a tutor, rationalizes his gambling even as it threatens to ruin his life. While the end of the film presents a pessimistic ending for Axel, who seems bent on his own destruction, the novel implies that Alexei might be able to break his compulsive gambling through the love of a woman. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
23 Sep 1974
p. 4724.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 1973
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 1973
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Sep 1974
p. 3, 7.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
9 Oct 1974
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
6 Oct 1974
Calendar, p. 30.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
2 Oct 1974
p. 35.
New York Times
3 Oct 1974
p. 50.
Newsweek
7 Oct 1974
pp. 95-96.
Time
28 Oct 1974
p. 55.
Variety
2 Oct 1974
p. 24.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Karl Reisz Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
2d asst cam
Still photog
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Standby props
Scenic artist chargeman
Head carpenter
Construction grip
COSTUMES
Men`s ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus scored and cond
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd re-rec
Asst ed
Asst ed
Sd re-rec at
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles des
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Casting
Scr continuity
Prod office coord
Extras casting
Loc aud
Basketball coach
Dial ed
Asst to the prod
Post production lab work
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Una furtiva lagrima" from from the opera L'elisir d'amore by Gaetano Donizetti, sung by Enrico Caruso, courtesy of RCA Records
Symphony No. 1 in D by Gustav Mahler, performed by by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, courtesy of Philips Records.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1974
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 2 October 1974
Los Angeles opening: 9 October 1974
Production Date:
20 August--late-November 1973 in New York and Las Vegas
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
30 August 1974
Copyright Number:
LP43878
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastmancolor
Duration(in mins):
109 or 111
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
23945
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

After racking up a debt of $44,000 in one night of gambling, English literature college professor Axel Freed apprehensively drives to his morning class. During his lecture, Axel endeavors to convince pragmatic African-American student Spencer of author Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s view that will and desire can overcome any circumstance. Later, Axel visits his girl friend Billie, who is stunned when he casually reveals that amount of his gambling debt. Axel then visits his mother Naomi, a physician, and after a game of tennis over lunch, asks her for ten thousand dollars. Aware of her son’s gambling habit, Naomi demands to know if he owes that amount, but Axel hastily explains that he only wants to know if he can count on her should he need it. Disturbed by his cavalier attitude, Naomi departs angrily. That afternoon, Axel meets Carmine, an associate of club owner, Monkey. On the way to meet a loan shark, Carmine asks Axel to accompany him to the apartment of another debtor, whom he nonchalantly beats for non-payment. Telling Axel he has forty-eight hours to meet his obligation to Monkey’s organization, Carmine drops him off at a restaurant to meet loan shark Bernie. When Axel reveals that he earns fifteen hundred dollars a month and has no collateral, Bernie scoffs at his request for $20,000, prompting Axel to walk out. Back at his apartment, Axel meets his waiting bookie, Hips, who is disappointed that Axel does not yet have the money. When Hips warns Axel not to go to another bookie to make the money gambling, Axel insists he will find it on his own. ... +


After racking up a debt of $44,000 in one night of gambling, English literature college professor Axel Freed apprehensively drives to his morning class. During his lecture, Axel endeavors to convince pragmatic African-American student Spencer of author Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s view that will and desire can overcome any circumstance. Later, Axel visits his girl friend Billie, who is stunned when he casually reveals that amount of his gambling debt. Axel then visits his mother Naomi, a physician, and after a game of tennis over lunch, asks her for ten thousand dollars. Aware of her son’s gambling habit, Naomi demands to know if he owes that amount, but Axel hastily explains that he only wants to know if he can count on her should he need it. Disturbed by his cavalier attitude, Naomi departs angrily. That afternoon, Axel meets Carmine, an associate of club owner, Monkey. On the way to meet a loan shark, Carmine asks Axel to accompany him to the apartment of another debtor, whom he nonchalantly beats for non-payment. Telling Axel he has forty-eight hours to meet his obligation to Monkey’s organization, Carmine drops him off at a restaurant to meet loan shark Bernie. When Axel reveals that he earns fifteen hundred dollars a month and has no collateral, Bernie scoffs at his request for $20,000, prompting Axel to walk out. Back at his apartment, Axel meets his waiting bookie, Hips, who is disappointed that Axel does not yet have the money. When Hips warns Axel not to go to another bookie to make the money gambling, Axel insists he will find it on his own. The next day, Axel attends a large family gathering to celebrate the eightieth birthday of his grandfather, retired grocery chain owner A. R. Lowenstein. While dancing with Naomi, Axel assures her he has no need of the money, but she remains doubtful. Later, Axel invites his mother to the beach, and while she wades in the surf, he writes the amount of his debt in the sand. Stunned when Axel confesses he owes that amount, Naomi berates her son for his involvement with criminals and wonders how she could have raised someone with such low morals. Ignoring Naomi’s distress, Axel asks if she intends to help him and she responds by slapping him. Later, however, Naomi gives Axel the money but cautions him to consider what he is doing with his life. After leaving a message with Hips that he has the money, Axel invites Billie to his afternoon lecture, in which he discusses the way in which writers have expressed the need for risk-taking and embracing change. Afterward, Axel takes Billie to A. R.’s well appointed home, and while she swims, Axel’s grandfather advises him that Billie is too common for him. Driving away, Axel stops at a phone booth to arrange a bet on college football games and grows angry when the bookie refuses unless he provides cash up front. Driving away recklessly, Axel disregards Billie’s alarm and, stopping again at another phone booth, calls the bookie back and insists he has the cash and bets $45,000 on various teams. Infuriated by Axels’ rashness, and realizing he intends to use his debt payment money to cover the bet, Billie leaves the car, determined to walk home. Picking her up further down the road, Axel impulsively invites her to fly with him to Las Vegas. Upon arriving there hours later, Axel hits a lucky streak in roulette and twenty-one at various casinos, using the money from Naomi. At one hotel bar, Axel cheerfully watches the sports report and learns that the college teams he has bet on are all ahead, although still playing. Content when his winnings reach $45,000, Axel stops gambling and the next day he and Billie return to New York. Soon after Axel and Billie arrive at his apartment, sports-bookie Jimmy arrives, nervous because Axel has been away, and demands his payment for the football games debt. Confused, Axel tells Jimmy that he owes him, but Jimmy points out that the teams Axel selected ultimately all lost. Stunned, Axel turns over his entire Vegas winnings to the delighted Jimmy. A few moments after Jimmy departs, Axel races after him to arrange a $50,000 bet on a professional basketball game in progress. When Jimmy insists that Axel must provide the cash up front, Axel gives him Naomi’s money, to Billie’s dismay. Later, Axel explains to Billie that his pleasure in gambling comes from his satisfaction in overcoming his fear of losing and in being in control of his destiny, but she remains saddened by his actions. Anxious over the latest bet, Axel listens to the game on the radio and hears his team lose. Visiting Hips the next morning, Axel confesses that he does not have the money, after which the bookie gives him an additional twenty-four hours. Axel then goes to Monkey and pleads that he be allowed to make a small wager on another sports game to earn his repayment. Monkey agrees, and although Axel wins, the amount is a trifle, which angers Hips. Upon visiting Billie, Axel is frustrated when she tells him they need time apart. While reflecting in a park later, Axel is chased and picked up by two men who take him to a warehouse. There he meets the head of the gambling syndicate, One, who asks Axel how he intends to meet his debt, which ultimately rests with him. Admitting that his mother is “tapped out,” Axel hints that he might ask his grandfather for the amount. Declaring that he has known and respected A. R. for over thirty years and that he is "no schmuck," One reveals he has already asked him for the money and been refused, which stuns Axel. When Axel admits under questioning that one of his students, Spencer, is the star of the basketball team, One orders him to fix their next game to win by under seven points. When Axel protests, One informs him he has no choice in the matter. That afternoon, Axel summons Spencer to his office and uncomfortably offers him five thousand dollars to fix the next game. Shrewdly aware of Axel’s gambling predilections, Spencer agrees, but with the stipulation that it is a one-time situation and he will only deal with Axel. Before the game, Axel visits A. R. and confesses that he feels let down by his grandfather’s refusal to pay his debt and for his association with One. A. R., a self-made millionaire, sharply reprimands Axel for misjudging him and states he dealt with One only when he “had to.” Disappointed by Axel’s naïveté, A. R. nevertheless asks if he needs assistance, but the disillusioned Axel departs for the game. After Spencer performs as expected, Hips cheerfully greets Axel to report One is satisfied and the debt has been repaid. When Hips expresses hope that the game-fixing might continue, however, Axel insists that it is not possible. Refusing Hips’s invitation to dinner, Axel walks to an African-American neighborhood and at a bar, picks up a prostitute whose pimp is then furious when Axel refuses to pay him. In a cheap hotel room, Axel tries to goad the pimp into killing him, then beats him when the man hesitates. After the terrified hooker slashes Axel across the face with a knife, Axel stumbles downstairs to the hotel lobby where he faintly smiles after catching sight of his bloodied face in a mirror. +

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

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