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Mr. Lucky (April 9, 2009)

Mr. Lucky was based on a short story by Milton Holmes that appeared in Cosmopolitan in June 1942. According to contemporary press reports, RKO bought the rights to the story because Cary Grant wanted to star in it. Milton Holmes later said that the story was based on the life of Edward G. Neilis, who owned the Clover Club on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. According to Holmes, Neilis rigged a one-night gambling benefit at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 1936 to raise $40,000 for a church.

The screenplay was written by Holmes and Adrian Scott, with uncredited contributions by Charles Bracket, Dudley Nichols and others. The movie was filmed from October 1942 through January 1943 and was released in May, 1943.

This film is a piece of wartime inspiration, some would maybe say, propaganda. A lot of its charm derives from the love story between two people from entirely different social situations – Cary Grant’s gambler, who fought his way up from the bottom, and Laraine Day’s socialite, running a war relief agency. A supporting cast member worth looking out for is Paul Stewart as Grant’s rival for ownership of the gambling ship. Stewart came to RKO with Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre, and he played Kane’s butler in Citizen Kane. It was the first film for Alan Carney, who plays Grant’s sidekick, “the Crunk”. Among the fascinating ladies in the war relief office are Gladys Cooper, who plays the head of the office, and Florence Bates, one of the most memorable character actresses of the time, who plays the lady who shows Grant how to knit. Florence Bates enlivened a string of early Forties movies, from Rebecca, and Heaven Can Wait, to Saratoga Trunk, and The Mask of Dimitrios. The song that underlies the whole picture is “Something To Remember You By”, by Arthur Schwartz and Harold Dietz. Mr. Lucky is perhaps not a great picture, but it has a certain something that makes it quite watchable, as I hope you agree after seeing it tonight.