double feature: Million Dollar Weekend & Las Vegas Showdown

I watched a LOT of movies in the last few months and am just getting down to writing about them. I ended up babbling about a couple of “sci-fi” films. There’s (looks at list of titles hastily scribbled in my notebook) 13 crime and or noir films that I’ve now got to refresh my memory. Did I see these? (check synopsis on Wikipedia) Oh I guess I did.

Million Dollar Weekend (1948)

This is a nice looking film about people who may have done bad things and the creepy creep who wants to blackmail them. Nick steals a million dollars from his company and heads to Hawaii, which is still part of America (it would become a state a decade later) so I don’t know how far he was going to get. He meets Cynthia, who asks him to hang around her on the flight because she’s being bothered by Alan. Alan thinks Cynthia killed her husband and is on the run so she doesn’t have to answer questions about how the husband died and how she gets to inherit her late husband’s money. I don’t know what business it is of Alan’s, but then we wouldn’t have this meet cute. In Hawaii, maybe the two could get together, but Nick still needs to flee to another country and catch that flight, but now his suitcase with his stolen money has been stolen from his hotel. He thinks Cynthia was working with Alan to distract Nick so Alan could take the money from Nick’s hotel room. He confronts Cynthia and she denies this, and they head back to California and try to track down Alan. Cynthia may have murdered her husband in self-defense, and Mark is feeling guilty about stealing the money. Both want to set the records straight with whomever might legally be after them, so Cynthia heads back home. Can Nick find Alan and return the money in time so he could possibly reunite with Cynthia?

That’s pretty much it. Cynthia could solve her problems with Alan pretty quick – she doesn’t have to say anything to anyone, and could even hire a lawyer with her late hubby’s money to tell Alan to get lost. We saw Gene Raymond back in Plunder Road; Cynthia is played by Osa Massen, and if you love MST3K as much as I do you might recognize her from ep 201, Rocketship X-M. Alan is played by Francis Lederer who just worked in Hollywood in film and TV seemingly forever. How is the movie? Competent. But not exactly exciting. Guy steals money, guy loses money, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Las Vegas Showdown (1955)

The copy of LVS that I watched was in bad shape, or the movie just looks kinda bad. There’s a lot going on, with a lot at stake for our hero, casino owner Joe. Joe had testified in a case against a mobster who was sent up the river, and the mobster is rumored to be paroled, and likely to make his first order of business to get back at Joe. Joe thinks the initials of someone who has registered at the hotel at his casino is a hitman, but instead it’s schoolteacher Julia who is using some vacation time to research casinos to write a book about how you can’t win.

It’s kind of hard to keep track of the bland people who are experiencing severe melodrama that has brought them to Joe’s casino: most of them are couples on the verge of breakup because of gambling, only for the neglected spouse to become addicted to gambling themselves. The only winner at Joe’s casino is an elderly couple who just want a weekend escape from their religious community and the bank they run. Even by trying to lose the money they won so that no one back home thinks they were doing anything inappropriate with the money from the bank, they keep winning.

Hardened Joe uses the brushes with death at the hands of the mobster’s cronies to make things right with the people who are losing big. Maybe Julia is softening his steel cold heart. The casino patrons’ losses become loans, or they realize they have each other in common and should try to stick out their relationship on the basis of being broke. This is such an odd morality play on a few levels and I don’t know how “we’re broke, so we might as well try again” is a happy ending for a couple. It’s hard to keep track of who is who other than for the elderly couple and for Joe & Julia. Also it seems like the entire police force works for Joe, reporting to him frequently, so it’s hard to believe that Joe and the local law are all on the up and up. Maybe it’s appreciation for putting away a mobster and Joe in fact runs a legit gambling operation. But they sure do seem to answer directly to him a lot, so aside from Joe not knowing where death can come from, I feel like he knew what he was getting into and has a lot of layers of protections. Maybe his heart’s one of gold and not steel, but I’m sarcastic and not a fan of gambling. And that if Julia and Joe do fall for each other, it could be a life of neglect for her as he’s always on the defense with enemies or in a business that fleeces regular people. Don’t run me out of town yet Vegas, this is just an opinion. I’m sure you’re all very nice.

Joe is played by Dennis O’Keefe and I’m sure we’ve seen him in something (Chicago Syndicate, which came out the same year, and the spy adventure Walk A Crooked Mile), hard not to because his filmography is very very long, spanning from the 30’s to the 60’s. Julia is played by Coleen Gray, I’ve seen her in a bunch of MST3K movies but she’s been in some good movies, namely The Killing and Kansas City Confidential. The movie itself is okay, I wasn’t sure if Joe would be done in, possibly dying a heroic death saving Julia or even something happening revealing why they could never be together, but nope, happy ending for everyone, in ways.

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