Street of Chance (1930) Poster

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Kay Francis proved she was not only ravishing but a natural talent as well
kidboots28 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"The Street of Chance" was one of the best crime dramas of the early sound era.

Even though she had appeared on stage, Kay Francis was discovered at "Tonys" by a group of Paramount executives who were completely fascinated by her vivid, aristocratic beauty. She was cast in any film that came along because from the first she was noticed by both the critics and the movie going public. In 1930 she appeared in 9 films and in "The Street of Chance" she was given her first opportunity to portray a sympathetic character. This was the second of her many screen teamings with William Powell.

Powell plays "Natural" Davis, a famous gambler, who is trying to quit and save his marriage to Alma (Kay Francis). He is renowned for his code of honour - he doesn't cheat, frame or doublecross, and he will not allow people to do it to him. He helps people out when they are in trouble - the newsman is eager to thank him for helping his sick wife. His brother "Babe" (Regis Toomey) comes to town, with new wife Judy (Jean Arthur) in tow. He has mysteriously turned "Natural's" $10,000 wedding present into $50,000 - he is a gambler too!!!!

After a heartfelt scene with Alma, Davis determines to leave gambling. He runs into his brother, who is excited to meet "Natural" (Powell has always told his brother he is a stockbroker). After giving him a lecture about the evils of gambling, he sets him up with 3 of the toughest gamblers around, hoping he will lose all his money and go back to his old life. However, Babe wins big and "Natural's" buddies think Babe and "Natural" have concocted a "sting" between them. For the first time in his gambling career Davis cheats - so his brother will be disgusted and leave - which he does!! "Natural" is now a "welcher" - a person he has always despised - and the big gamblers are now after him.

This is an excellent movie, directed by John Cromwell and based on the life of Arnold Rothstein. In the few scenes that she had, Kay Francis showed that not only was she very beautiful but a natural actress as well. William Powell looked as if he had been acting in "talkies" his whole life. It was also nice to see Jean Arthur, if only in the thankless role of Judy, "Babes" wife. Regis Toomey, although he never became a huge star, had a very long and full career playing character parts.

The stars gave this film a very natural and real look.

Highly Recommended.
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Not A Profession He Wants For His Brother
bkoganbing10 August 2011
In watching the early Paramount talkies with William Powell it never ceases to amaze that Powell stage trained voice that he had apparently knew instinctively how to modulate for the new medium of talking motion pictures. It was why he was able to have three successful Philo Vance films and Street Of Chance is in the same mode.

Powell's character of 'Natural' Davis is of course modeled on the legendary Arnold Rothstein who gambled with quite a bit more than just games of chance. This is the life Powell has chosen for himself and he and wife Kay Francis are content. He's the best at what he does in a business filled with uncertainty.

But this is not a life he wants for his brother Regis Toomey who comes into town wanting to try the gambling world and be the best like 'Natural Davis. That's not what Powell wants for his kid brother, he wants Toomey to be and stay respectable. Tragedy results when Powell tries some desperate means to keep Toomey from the life.

Powell and Francis are at the top of their game and Toomey registers well as the eager younger brother. Jean Arthur is here as well, but she's really not the Jean Arthur who developed later on in those Thirties screwball comedies, she took quite a while to develop as a screen personality.

Street Of Chance shows William Powell at really good advantage in a carefully delineated role. For his fans definitely catch this one.
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Playing the Percentages with William Powell
wes-connors19 July 2010
New York businessman William Powell (as John "Jack" B. Marsden) is really the city's notorious underworld gambler "Natural Davis" (modeled after the infamous Arnold Rothstein). While very successful at what he does (due to playing the percentages), Mr. Powell wants to get out of the racket. He has received a separation summons from model-ish posing Kay Francis (as Alma), who is tired of being the stay-at-home gambler's wife. Powell is also feeling some remorse about having a lowly compatriot (Brooks Benedict) shot dead. He prides himself on being honest, and will kill those who don't play by the rules. Nobody welches.

Powell promises Ms. Francis he will give up gambling, and they plan a second honeymoon.

Then, Powell's similarly gambling-addicted kid brother Regis Toomey (as Alan "Babe" Marsden) arrives from San Francisco. Newly married to Jean Arthur (as Judith), he is in New York to gamble Powell's cash wedding gift into bigger bucks - and he wants to do it in the company of the legendary "Natural Davis" (not knowing "Natural" is his brother). This is, of course, an eyebrow-raising plot development, since Mr. Toomey should probably be thinking he will lose his shirt in such a match-up - so, let's just call him overconfident. Well, Powell concocts a plan to quit gambling, re-gain his wife, and cure his brother's gambling itch...

"Street of Chance" is a typically spotty production for the times, but it does contain some great-looking moments, courtesy of director John Cromwell and photographer Charles Lang. Howard Estabrook received an "Academy Award" nomination for cleverly white-washing this story of a real life gambler; he uses natural dialogue - answering "Good morning" with "What's good about it?" And, quotes from popular songs (like "Button Up Your Overcoat)" certainly ticked some fancy. Powell is a commanding lead, and the incidental characters are colorful; as "Tony" the one-armed newspaper salesman, John Risso is most memorable.

******* Street of Chance (2/3/30) John Cromwell ~ William Powell, Kay Francis, Regis Toomey, Jean Arthur
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AAdaSC23 August 2009
'Natural' Davis (William Powell) is a respected gambler who follows a ruthless code of honour with those who cheat against him. His wife Alma (Kay Francis) wants to divorce him because of his addiction and lifestyle but they agree on a reconciliation and 2nd honeymoon together and 'Natural' promises to give up gambling. However, his plans change when his brother 'Babe' (Regis Toomey) arrives in town...............

This is a well acted film with William Powell very good in the lead role and Kay Francis a little irritating at times with her facial over-emoting. However, Powell carries the film and pulls it into the "good" category. It has a slightly downbeat ending.
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Too many clichés, but good anyway
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre6 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The 1930 'Street of Chance' (no relation to a 1942 semi-noir with the same title) is a highly entertaining showcase for the excellent William Powell. Unfortunately, the central character (Powell's role) is one of those implausible stock characters who are encountered so frequently in movies but so seldom in real life. Powell is cast here as 'Natural' Davis, a professional gambler who is always scrupulously honest ... yet who is able to live in luxury because he consistently wins high-stakes games. Even more insufferably (and implausibly), this guy moves effortlessly through the criminal underworld (even though he's completely honest, mind you), and he has the undying respect of all the big-shot gangsters AND all the police detectives. Oh, yes. There may be a very few gamblers like this in real life, but not many ... and yet they show up in movies all the time. George M. Cohan played a similar version of this implausible role in 'Gambling', his last starring film. Powell's characterisation in 'Street of Chance' is made even more annoying (and more implausible) because he's clearly based on a real-life figure who WAS a crook: Arnold Rothstein, the playboy who made millions as a gambler precisely because he was NOT honest. Most infamously, Rothstein was the man who fixed the 1919 World Series which produced the Chicago 'Black Sox' scandal.

'Natural' Davis (Powell) is a high-roller who bets thousands on the turn of a card ... but he's such an inveterate gambler, he lays odds on every possible happenstance. When we first see him in Times Square, he's casually making book on whether the next car that stops for a traffic light will have an odd or even number plate. (He wins, of course.) Nowadays, we recognise this sort of behaviour as a pathological gambling addiction, but in this film we're meant to admire Davis for always taking chances and winning. There's some very impressive location shooting in Manhattan during these early scenes.

'Natural' Davis is made even more insufferable by yet another cliché: this guy is worth millions, but -- to show us that he's a 'regular' guy -- there's a scene in which Davis takes time for friendly banter with Tony, the local crippled newsboy. Tony is played by a young man with no right arm and no acting ability, yet he still fits all the crippled-newsboy stereotypes: he wears a flat cap, and every edition of the newspaper prompts him to yell 'Extree! Extree!' (Did any real-life newsboy ever actually say 'Extree'?) Davis is always honest, but he knows all the angles: he gives a bankroll to a guy with a hard-luck story, but carefully plants his own thumbprint on the banknotes ... so that later he can catch the guy out, when the money is misspent.

Davis's wife Alma is played by Kay Francis, a very mannered actress who has always annoyed me with her speech impediment and her raccoonish eye makeup. She had an arch habit of frequently planting one hand akimbo, very high up on her waist (not her hip), and she repeats that here. Davis and Alma were in love once, but now they've come to a tough patch.

SPOILERS COMING. Along comes a Midwestern yokel named 'Babe' Marsden, a newlywed with a nice wife named Judith (Jean Arthur, wasted in a small bland role). Babe's older brother John gave him $10,000 as a wedding present; instead of banking that money, Babe went gambling in California and parlayed the money into $50,000. Babe is determined to be a high-rolling gambler. He's heard about the great 'Natural' Davis ... and now Babe has come to Manhattan, intending to beat Davis at the card tables. Surprise, surprise! 'Natural' Davis is actually Babe's older brother John, conducting his gambling activities under a false name. (We're constantly hearing dialogue about how scrupulously honest this Davis geezer is, so why does he use an alias?)

John/"Natural" doesn't want Babe to become a gambler like himself, apparently feeling that Babe isn't cut out for it. To teach Babe a lesson, he agrees to play against him in a high-stakes poker game, clearly intending to win Babe's money and send him home skint. John gives Babe fair warning: 'I don't want to hear any "brother" stuff.'

MORE SPOILERS NOW. 'Natural' Davis invites some gangsters to sit in on the poker game, and he stakes them to some of his own bankroll, telling them in advance that his intention is to clean out Babe. (All in a good cause, of course.) But the game goes Babe's way, with Babe taking the pot. In desperation, Davis deals cards from the bottom of the deck ... cheating so that Babe will lose. (We keep hearing dialogue about how totally honest Davis is ... so how come he just happens to be skillful at crooked card deals?) Babe learns his lesson and goes home with his wife, remarking on the train to Hickburg about what a wonderful guy his brother John is ... not realising that John is dead, because the gangsters caught him out cheating and they took him 'for a ride'.

I found this ending utterly implausible. We keep hearing thick-ear dialogue about how all the gangsters respect Davis, and how he has an impeccable reputation for honesty. Why didn't he warn the crooks in advance that he was planning to beat Babe by fair means or foul, and promise to reimburse the crooks for any stakes they lost in the process?

Despite its faults and its very many clichés, 'Street of Chance' is extremely well directed by the underrated John Cromwell (who also plays a small role as a plainclothes officer), and the editing and photography are splendid. I'll rate this movie 7 out of 10.
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A true film noir from 1930!
JohnHowardReid14 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Copyright 7 February 1930 by Paramount Pictures. New York opening: 3 February 1930. Running time: 75 minutes. COMMENT: Regis Toomey looks much like his usual self in production stills, but in the movie itself, so cleverly is he made up, and so adroit is his performance, he is actually hard to recognize. No wonder that nonetheless, he easily, and breezily, steals this picture. The other players, including such assets as Kay Francis (who plays Toomey's wife) and Jean Arthur struggle nobly with an over-talkative script that moves rather slowly. Fortunately, director John Cromwell gives life to a great deal of the action.

Despite its 1930 release date, "Street of Chance" comes across as a true film noir (in every respect of that word). In fact, the ironic plot (in which the plans of William Powell's Natural Davis both succeed and fail) is coupled with one of the most downbeat endings ever filmed.
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