The House on 56th Street (1933)

So many showgirls dream of meeting a wealthy man and giving up the stage to marry them.  But Peggy Stone (Kay Francis) is one of the few who actually sees that dream come true.  When we first meet her, she’s working as a showgirl and even though she is seeing Lyndon Fiske (John Halliday), she is also seeing Monte Van Tyle (Gene Raymond).  Although she’s enjoyed her time with Lyndon, Monte is the one she loves and when he proposes, she gladly accepts.  When she breaks the news to Lyndon, he appears to take it in stride.  Monte and Peggy get married, head off to Europe for their honeymoon, and when they return, they move into a home on 56th Street that Monte had built for them.  Married life is wonderful for the Van Tyles.  They couldn’t be happier and they soon welcome a daughter, Eleanor.

But that all changes one day when Peggy runs into Lyndon again by accident.  He tells Peggy that he is dying and wants to spend the rest of his time with her.  Peggy wants nothing to do with him, but eventually goes to see him one last time to say goodbye.  Not willing to take “no” for an answer, Lyndon pulls a gun out and threatens to kill himself.  Peggy tries to wrestle the gun away from him, but in the struggle, he accidentally shoots himself and dies.  Even though Peggy is innocent, she is sentenced to twenty years in prison.  In the time that she’s gone, Monte is killed in World War I and Eleanor is told that her mother died in prison.

When Peggy gets out of prison, she finds out that she’s been left $5,000, so she gets herself made over and goes on a cruise.  On the ship, she meets card sharp Bill Blaine (Ricardo Cortez) and plays poker with him one night.  Luckily for her, her father had also been a big gambler so she saw through all his tricks and managed to win.  The two of them fall in love and with their gambling skills combined, they become an unstoppable duo.  When they return to New York, Bill gets them both jobs in a new gambling house, which happens to be in the house Peggy used to live in with Monte.  Peggy earns quite a reputation for being an unbeatable blackjack dealer, but she momentarily loses her touch one night when her now grown up and married daughter Eleanor (Margaret Lindsay) comes to her table.  When the night is over, Eleanor has gambled herself $15,000 into debt.  Peggy wants the casino to let the debt go, but the owner insists and when Eleanor comes to see him the next day, she shoots him.  Not willing to put her motherly instincts aside, she tries to cover for Eleanor and offers to take the fall for it.

The House on 56th Street was an okay movie.  It’s enjoyable enough, but the story wasn’t really anything special.  The basic premise has been done before in movies like Frisco Jenny and Madame X.  But even if the story wasn’t particularly original, at least Kay Francis was pretty good in it.  But ultimately, even Kay’s performance doesn’t really save the movie.  It’s not a bad movie, but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it.

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