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Western films, from silent to today

Mississippi Gambler (1953)

Mississippi Gambler (1953) posterTyrone Power is Mark Fallon, a New Yorker who heads West in search of his fortune and decides to try to make that fortune as an honest riverboat gambler. And that would make him a true novelty, proclaims new friend “Kansas” John Polly.

That said, he barely escapes his first riverboat trip with his life. Oh, he’s lucky at cards; he even wins a heirloom necklace belonging to lovely Angelique Dureau (Piper Laurie) from her reckless brother Laurent (John Bauer).

But Fallon manages to raise the ire of Laurent and some other card players less interested in an honest game, including one who’s had more than one gambler killed and tossed overboard in the middle of the night.

Fallon’s next stop: New Orleans, where he manages to mingle with the city’s elite in spite of his profession and befriends fellow fencing enthusiast Edmond Dureau, who just happens to be the rich father of Angelique and Laurent.

By the end of his second meeting with Angelique, Fallon’s convinced they’re destined to become lovers. She’s far less convinced. After all, she has a suitor interested in marriage — banker’s son George Elwood.

Meanwhile, Fallon continues to butt head with her brother. And he turns the head of another pretty lady, Ann Conant (Julie Adams), whose brother committed suicide after going broke in a card game with Fallon.

Review:

More romance than Western, but very well done, even if Fallon’s approach with Angelique Dureau seems way too chauvanistic by today’s standards.

Piper Laurie is as lovely as ever as the headstrong daughter used to fine things and being the center of attention. The plot wisely keeps her and Tyrone Powers’ character at arm’s length for most of the film.

We also get a glimpse at 19th century New Orleans, where gentlemen settled their differences in duels and where a loss of honor in one of those duels could be nearly as costly as a fatal bullet.

In addition to strong performances from a deep cast we get to see Dennis Weaver in one of his first film roles (he plays Ann’s ill-fated brother) and Anita Eckberg in her film debut (an uncredited role as a bridesmaid).

Piper Laurie as Angelique Dureau and Tyrone Power as Mark Fallon in Mississippi Gambler (1953)Directed by:
Rudolph Mate

Cast:
Tyrone Power … Mark Fallon
Piper Laurie … Angelique “Leia” Dureau
Julie Adams … Ann Conant
John McIntire … Kansas John Polly
Paul Cavanaugh … Edmond Dureau
John Bauer … Laurent Dureau
Ron Randell … George Elwood
Ralph Dumke … F. Montague Caldwell
Robert Warwick … Gov. Paul Monet
Wiliams Reynolds … Pierre Loyette
Guy Williams … Andre Brion
Dennis Weaver …. Julian Conant

Runtime: 99 min.

Memorable lines:

Mark Fallon: “I’ve got a different idea about gambling, Mr. Polly. I’m going to deal honest cards.”
Kansas John Polly: “Well, that sure will be a novelty on this river. I hope you’re good. You’ll be up against some mighty dirty competition.”

F. Montague Caldwell: “The waters of the Mississippi are very treacherous, Mr. Fallon. A number of unfortunates have fallen over from these riverboats at night. Their bodies were never recovered. Pleasant sleep, sir.”

Edmond Dureau, talking to his daughter about Mark Fallon: “His name seems to arouse more emotion than most.”
Angelique Dureau: “So does a thorn when I step on it.”

George Elwood: “Where are you Leia?”
Angelique “Leia” Dureau: “What do you mean, where am I? I’m here.”
Elwood: “No. Every time I hold you in my arms, you seem a thousand miles away. It’s like holding a shadow that’s drifting somewhere. No substance. No warmth.”

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