Hollywood tends to distort poker with stereotypes and really stupid moves and tricks described by scriptwriters who obviously know nothing about the game. But once in a while, you come across a movie that does a decent job of bringing the excitement of poker to the big screen. Here are a few films to rent, enjoy, and be inspired by.
One of the oldest poker movies in the history of Hollywood is the 1922 classic, Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler. It’s a bit kitschy, as you would expect from a movie this old. The premise is that psychic/arch criminal/madman Dr. Mabuse can control the minds of his opponents, and he uses this amazing power to force his gambling opponents to make a dumb move like stand on a three in blackjack, or fold a winning poker hand. The movie has a winning line, which all serious players should be able to quote: “A dream of youthful ambition, to win at cards and love.” Another winning line is “Cards or Cocaine?” which was the password of the private club. It was directed by master director Fritz Lang (who crafted Metropolis), and is considered one of the best silent foreign films.
Born Yesterday, a 1950’s classic with Judy Holliday and Broderick Crawford, will completely redefine the way you think of the phrase “table image”. Holliday’s the stereotypical dumb blonde, and Crawford’s embodies the gruff giant with a hidden soft spot. You may have heard of the 1993 remake with Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, but that wasn’t worth much. Hard to find a copy of the original, you say? Keep looking. The gin scene alone in the 1950’s version will be worth the extra effort.
Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward star in the 1966 film, A Big Hand for the Little Lady. The title pretty much gives a taste of where the movie is going, and there are a few gaps in the film that will make a poker player roll his eyes and say, “That’ll never happen”, but all in all it’s a good way to unwind on a slow night.
Three Godfathers was made in 1936, and after that were several remakes-one of the best being the John Wayne 1948 version. It’s got one of the best poker lines in movie history. When Walter Brennan connives to help a man he knows nothing about cheat at a poker game, somebody asks him what he could possibly have gained from breaking the rules. He answers: “I dunno. I guess I’m just a no good rat.”
Another great Hollywood poker scene can be found in the 1950’s film, The Gunfighter. It’s one of the best known Westerns, and stars Gregory Peck as a gunfighter ready to retire to a more quiet life. (Of course, we all know there’s no such thing). There are many comic poker scenes, with winning lines like, “I wouldn’t sit in this game with cards I made myself.” Watch this movie with a beer in one hand and your sense of humor in the other-it’s meant to be fun, not artistic.