Monday, August 18, 2014

A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)

Director: Fielder Cook

Writer: Sidney Carroll

Composer: David Raksin

Starring: Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards, Paul Ford, Charles Bickford, Burgess Meredith, Kevin McCarthy, Robert Middleton, John Qualen, Jean-Michel Michenaud, James Berwick, Allen Collins, Jim Boles, Virginia Gregg, Chester Conklin, Mae Clarke, Ned Glass, James Griffith

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Rule of the game: you must sit in from the beginning! And it's the wildest poker game in the west!

Plot: A naive couple and a child arrive to the town on the way to San Antonio, Texas to buy a farm there. There is a poker game between the richest men in the region. The man cannot resist it and though he is a very bad poker player, enters the game betting all the money of his family. In the climax of the game he suffers a heart-attack. His wife then takes his place in the table. That's the only way of recovering their savings. But there is a little problem. Can anybody explain her how to play poker?

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

This is one of those cute and harmless Westerns but it's really just a gambling picture set in the Old West.  Fonda is great (as always) as is the rest of the cast.  There are a lot of familiar faces including Woodward, Robards, Ford, McCarthy and more that you'll recognize from other Westerns from the 60s and 70s even if you've never heard their names before.  Burgess Meredith makes me giggle with glee every time I see him in anything.  I just love that man.  There's a pretty tight and engaging story, too.  It's part drama, comedy and thriller.  The suspense builds to a head and then we get something really special at the end which should have you howling with laughter.  Jason Robards is a scream at the end.  I really enjoyed this flick.  There's a sense of fun throughout but it's the bits of drama and tension that elevate it to something more than just a one-note picture.  It probably won't blow your socks off but it's almost a sure bet (ahahahahahaha) that you'll dig it if you're into the genre.  Say, what's the deal with a lot of Westerns from this time where they look too new and shiny?  This one's got it.  The problem with it is it makes it feel like a set (which it was) instead of the real thing.  It's not a big sticking point with me but it is something that I'd change if I had a magic wand.  Damn, that wand would get a lot of wear and tear...but that's another story.

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