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Hollywood and Gambling
Hollywood and Gambling

A member writes, 'Geno, what is your favorite gambling film of all time? Brian W., San Francisco, CA.'

Brian, I am afraid that film hasn't been written yet.

Hollywood seems to have a problem when it comes to making movies with a gambling theme. I believe I know what the problem is and will share it with you farther into this column.

There is a big difference between Hollywood's perception of gambling and what it is really all about to an individual .

Let's start at the beginning. Why does a person get into gambling in the first place?

If you answered 'To make money,' your answer is wrong. That comes later, but not at the beginning.

People gamble because it's fun. It's an adventure. It's a mystery without an ending. The gambler writes his own ending.

'The Cincinnati Kid' was given high marks as a gambling film, but the movie didn;t do that much for me. Another movie that received high ratings was 'The Only Game In Town,' starring Warren Beatty and Elizabeth Taylor. To my way of thinking, this one came closer to hitting the mark because Beatty captured the frenzy of an addicted dice player (Beatty) who had no control over his addiction.

Other movies about gambling in Las Vegas like 'Casino' were, in my opinion, too brutal or too simplistic to capture the true essence of a gambler. It's like filming the story of a brahma bull rider. You would almost have to film several bull riding events to capture the drive that permits him to ignore his own safety in order to accomplish his goal of riding a bull for the required length of time in order to capture first place money.

I hate to say this but I don't find most gamblers to be very sympathetic to a movie audience. A gambler plays in the World Series of Poker to have a chance at winning more money than he has ever seen before. That is his entire motivation.

I often thought a good film could have been made about Frank Sinatra's addiction to gambling. Even Sinatra got out of control when it came to playing baccarat and he nearly got himself killed one night when he over-extended his credit and tangled with the wrong casino boss.

My personal choice for someone to direct a film about gambling would be the late Federico Fellini. It would not be your ordinary gambling film. I have no idea what approach Fellini would take toward making such a film and that is precisely my point. No gambling film should be predictable. The outcome of a card or a roll of the dice is not predictable.

Robert Redford starred as a professional poker player in 'Havana.' I found the movie interesting since it was basically a remake of 'Casablanca.' However, Redford did not come off well as a poker player. He came off as an actor who played poker because it was a required part of the plot. Big difference.

Most of the time gamblers are trying to raise enough money to pay for their entry into a tournament or a cash game. Once they get the money, their battle is half over. Now all they have to do...smiles....is take all the chips and win the tournament or the cash. Simple. Right?

No, a good Hollywood film about a gambler should not be overly brutal and it should not be about so much money that you lose your average theater goer. It should be about someone the average person recognizes. Someone like himself who worries about filling up the gas tank or paying his hotel bill when his time in Las Vegas is over. Who worries about a relationship that his gambling is harming. Who worries about a daughtr who is 2,000 miles away.

that's why Fellini would be a perfect director. Too bad he isn't around to do the job.

I may try to write the script for it. Wish me luck. I think I'll need it.

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