Two Dollar Bettor (September 7, 1951)
Released on September 7, 1951: Family man and banker John Hewitt visits a racetrack for the first time and innocently makes a two dollar bet, but gets hooked on gambling and may ruin his life and wind up in jail with the help of a bookie and the bookie's beautiful secretary.
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Written by Howard Emett Rogers and William Ryanor.
The Actors: Steve Brodie (Rick Bowers, aka Rick Slate), Marie Windsor (Mary Slate), John Litel (John Hewitt), Barbara Logan (Nancy Hewitt), Robert Sherwood (Phillip Adams), Barbara Bestar (Diane 'Dee' Hewitt), Walter Kingsford (Carleton P. Adams), Don Shelton (George Irwin), Kay Lavelle (Grandma Sarah Irwin), Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer (Chuck Nordlinger), Isabel Randolph (Margaret Adams), Ralph Reed (Teddy Cosgrove Phelps), Barbara Billingsley (Miss Pierson), Ralph Hodges (Chester Mitchell), Madelon Mitchell (Grace Shepard), Philip Van Zandt (Ralph Shepard), Dick Elliott (big racetrack drunk bettor), Jack George (Tom), Kit Guard (racetrack extra), Sam Harris (racetrack extra), Jonathan Hole (race track drunk bettor), Mike Lally (racetrack extra), Paul Maxey (Lawrence Crane), Forbes Murray (man at racetrack), Ralph Sanford (taxi driver), Bert Stevens (Joe), Eric Wilton (Adams' butler), Barbara Woodell (Mrs. Hewitt's photograph).
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I've never been hooked by the gambling bug. One of Ohio's first casinos just opened in Cleveland, and I probably won't visit it soon, if ever. I just don't have much interest in it. I guess I'm a bit weird or something. As a younger man I visited a nearby harness racing track, with the intention of betting $2 on each race, for a total spend of about $40, including a hot dog and a couple of beers. I don't even remember if I ever won anything . . . it was never very important whether I won or lost, it was more about an evening out with friends. But sadly, just like most movies, this one shows a slice of life that does occasionally happen, if not as dramatic as the writers create for the big screen. Pop your white kernel popcorn with butter all over it and get ready for a train wreck like you have seldom seen before.
It is 1951 and WWII is over, our brave soldiers are back home and the country is booming with opportunity. John Hewitt is the perfect American father and businessman. His wife died, but he has two lovely teenage daughters, and for goodness sakes, Barbara Billingsley, later to become Beaver Cleaver's mom on "Leave it to Beaver" on television, is Hewitt's secretary. Scenes of home with a living room full of young happy teens bopping to the latest music fill the screen. Grandma is always around, and Hewitt's daughters are two lovely girls that any parent would love. Homemade rice pudding in the kitchen, the high school football star taking one of the girls to the picture show after dinner . . . life couldn't get any better!
But Hewitt slowly gets involved in betting the horses, and for a while he wins big, and is able to give the girls a little better life than he could with his small bank job as comptroller. Of course, you know how the story goes next . . . . he starts losing. Just a little at first, but then more and more, until he is forced to steal money from the bank to pay his bookie. The bookie's secretary is the gal that always meets Hewitt to collect, and they have a little fling, and we finally come to the place in this tale of sorrow that portends the great disaster ahead, but we keep watching, with hope after hope that somehow things will turn out well for Hewitt. He is sucked into a scam that will positively end his career and happy home life if it succeeds, and he walks into it with both eyes closed, hoping against hope that he can finally get off of the merry go round of betting that he is on.
With fingers crossed we climb aboard with Hewitt, wishing him well after the wild emotional ride we've been on so far, and travel on to the surprisingly well written conclusion. Whether you are a fan of the horses or not, if you are a fan of life in America in the 1950's, don't miss this movie. In addition to a great story line with wonderful actors, you will see a slice of America when the baby boomers were growing up and taking over their world. If you are of that age, you will feel like you are 'going home,' and the homes, cars, conversations and clothes will bring you back to some of the finest days that this still young country has ever had.