Any Number Can Win (1949): Mervyn LeRoy Directs Clark Gable and Alexis Smith

Clark Gabe could have played this stereotypical part, set almost entirely within a casino, in his sleep.

As Charley King, Gable prides himself on his successful career as an honest gambler and cannot understand why his wife, Lon (Alexis Smith), and his seventeen-year-old son Paul (Darryl Hickman) disapprove of his profession and the lifestyle that goes with it.

On the way to his casino, Charley runs into Ben Sneller (Lewis Stone), once a big shot gambler but now broke.  He stakes him to $500 dollars when told by Ben that he feels lucky.  Ben enters the gambling casino with him and sits down at the poker table.

Meanwhile, Charley’s worthless brother-in-law, Robbie (Wendell Corey), has been blackmailed into letting the crooks Angie and Sisti take a hand in a crap game with loaded dice.  Charley becomes suspicious of them, but before he can investigate, he learns that Ben Sneller, having lost the give hundred, is attempting suicide.  He takes his gun from him in the nick of time.

Charley’s son Paul is arrested for a brawl.  Charley rushes off to get him out of jail, but Paul refuses to leave with him.  Lon comes to Charley’s aid and prevails upon Paul to go with her to gambling house and see the place for themselves.

Sisti and Angie stop playing craps, and the loaded dice is withdrawn.  An honest game is in progress with Jim Kersten (Leon Ames), a rich client of Charley’s, playing in spectacular luck, but Charley refuses to stop the game.  Instead, pitting his own luck against Kersten’s, he wins back the money lost.

When Angie and Sisti try to hold up the place they are stopped by Charley, which makes Paul realize his father’s worth.  Touched by his son’s new respect and affection, Charley plays a fixed hand against his employees, deliberately losing the casino, so that he can start out a new life with his wife and son.

This was the only film Alexis Smith made at MGM; she was loaned from Warner.

The movie is verbose and lacks humor to make it engaging for its excessive running time (close to two hours).

A routine programmer, as they said at the time, “Any Number Can Win” is neither a good LeRoy-directed nor a Gable-starred picture.




Produced by Arthur Freed.

Directed by Mervyn Leroy.

Screenplay by Richard Brooks, based on the book by Edward Harris Heth.

Camera: Harold Rosson.

Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons and Urie McCleary.

Musical Score: Lennie Hayton.

Editor: Ralph E. Winters.

Release date: July 2, 1949.


Running time: 112 minutes.