Mr. Lucky (1943): H.C. Potter’s Romantic Film, Starring Cary Grant as Laraine Day

H.C. Potter directed Mr. Lucky, a romance film starring Cary Grant and Laraine Day, which depicts the attraction between a shady gambler and a wealthy socialite in the days prior to the U.S. entering World War II.

Grade: B- (*** out of *****)

Mr. Lucky
Mr lucky poster.jpg

Film poster

Narrative Premise:

Swede (Charles Bickford), rowing up to a public dock in a dinghy, hides when he spots a young woman who walks on the pier. When the new night watchman notices her, Swede stops him from bothering her.

The sailor begins recounting her story, and the film segues into a long flashback.

Cary Grant plays Joe “the Greek” Adams, a gambler and grifter, who, along with his treacherous partner Zepp (Paul Stewart), had received draft notices to join the army.

Meanwhile, one of his underlings, Joe Bascopolous, has just died, and his status was 4F (unfit to serve), which means that one of them can dodge the draft by assuming his identity.

They gamble for it and Zepp cheats, but Joe still wins; Zepp then fails his physical examination anyway.

Lacking money to bankroll his gambling ship, he talks the head of the local War Relief organization, Captain Veronica Steadman (Gladys Cooper), into authorizing him to run a “charity” casino.

He promises to raise money to outfit a relief ship, despite the suspicions of her lieutenant, the wealthy socialite Dorothy Bryant (Laraine Day).

Last Reel

Dorothy is stricken when a policeman informs her Bascopolous is dead. She sees the photo of the man, but it is not Joe. When the name of the ship Bascopolous worked on is mentioned, she rushes to the dock, just as the ship is leaving. She begs Joe to take her, but he tells her she deserves better and turns away to hide his own anguish.

The ship is torpedoed and sunk on the return trip, and Dorothy visits the pier each night.

The flashback ends.

Hoping Dorothy would be present, Swede arranged for Joe to meet him there. When Joe shows up, he wants to go out to celebrate their last night in port. But the guard tells him he cannot leave the dinghy tied up where it is.

The watchman flipping a coin to settles who has to move it. He assigns Joe heads; he loses. As Joe walks to the end of the dock, Dorothy rushes into his arms. Joe is taken aback, but then embraces her.

In the end, Swede examines the coin, realizing that it has a head on each side.

The film was a commercial success, earning a profit of $1,603,000.

Recycling:

Mr. Lucky was adapted as a radio play on the October 18, 1943, broadcast of Lux Radio Theatre with Cary Grant and Laraine Day reprising their film roles.

 It was also presented on the January 20, 1950, broadcast of Screen Directors Playhouse, with Cary Grant again reprising his role.

A 1959 TV series Mr. Lucky, loosely based on the film, lasted only one season and starred John Vivyan in the title role.

Cast
Cary Grant as Joe Adams/”Joe Bascopolous”
Laraine Day as Dorothy Bryant
Charles Bickford as Hard Swede
Gladys Cooper as Captain Veronica Steadman
Alan Carney as the “Crunk”
Henry Stephenson as Mr. Bryant, Dorothy’s grandfather
Paul Stewart as Zepp
Kay Johnson as Mrs. Mary Ostrander
Walter Kingsford as Commissioner Hargraves
Erford Gage as Henchman
Florence Bates as Mrs. Van Every
Edward Fielding as Foster, Dorothy’s butler (uncredited)
Emory Parnell as the dock watchman (uncredited)
Vladimir Sokoloff as the Greek priest (uncredited)

Credits:

Directed by H.C. Potter
Produced by David Hempstead
Screenplay by Milton Holmes and Adrian Scott, based on Bundles for Freedom, 1942 story in Cosmopolitan by Holmes
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography George Barnes
Edited by Theron Warth

Production and distribution: RKO Radio Pictures

Release date: May 28, 1943 (US) August 21, 1943 (UK)

Running time: 100 min.
Box office $2,673,000 (U.S. rentals)