Don’t Bet on Blondes (1935)
Directed by Robert Florey with story & screenplay by Isabel Dawn and Boyce DeGaw this short (less than an hour) comedy starring Warren William is a lot of fun a delightful little movie with rich characterizations which should entertain most especially those fans of the stylish actor. Though you probably won’t find yourself laughing out loud you should enjoy spotting several familiar faces throughout this film (including a cameo by Errol Flynn in one of his first pictures).
‘Odds’ Owen (William) is the best known bookie in town (New York?) setting the odds and taking bets from sports gamblers of nearly every sport at his thriving business offices. His staff includes: Numbers (William Gargan – They Knew What They Wanted (1940)) who calculates the odds using statistics etc.; Doc (Spencer Charters) who examines horses at the track; Steve (Eddie Shubert) a detective for Odds; and Brains (Vince Barnett) who’s a gopher (“go for this go for that”) for the other things Odds may need or need done. The recognizable Mary Treen plays his office secretary. When a man comes in and places a $2500 bet on a 20-1 horse Numbers has Steve follow him and then tells Odds. Odds calls Brains & Doc at the track for more information and then listens on the radio as the long-shot comes in (wins the race). Odds then asks Doc to check to see if the horse had been doped. When he finds out that it was Odds takes the certified results to the person Steve found out made the bet T. Everett Markham (Clay Clement) the horse’s owner and a successful lawyer downtown. Odds gives Markham the choice of taking the results or his $50000 in winnings and Markham chooses the incriminating evidence. Odds gives Markham his $2500 back and makes it clear that Markham should sell his stables or else. Later Markham tells his Broadway star actress girlfriend Marilyn Young (Claire Dodd) that he’s left the horse racing business because it’s infiltrated with gangsters.
Though happy with himself for coming out on top Odds tells his staff that they are getting out of the gambling business and going into the insurance business. He tells them that it’s pretty much the same business after all and that since there is no equivalent to Lloyds of London in the U.S. they will write unique policies and collect premiums for “freak” occurrences. One of their first clients is Philbert Slemp (Hobart Cavanaugh) a homely little man who wants to insure that his wife doesn’t have twins even though they run in the family. Against his staff’s advice Odds takes the bet anyway based on the man’s lack of sex appeal. Another bet he takes is from Mousy Slade (Jack Norton) who manages “husband caller” (you have to see this to believe it – evidentally it was or still is something that’s done at state fairs) Little Ellen Purdy (Maude Eburne) and wants to insure his client against losing her voice. Though Numbers is against it Brains convinces him that it’s what Odds wants.
One day when Markham is visiting Marilyn he learns that she’s engaged to Dwight Boardman (Walter Byron) who arrives professing he is suffering from some ailment and that his doctor has advised him not to catch a chill; he’s wearing his coat and scarf indoors. Markham who has been reading about Odds’s new success in the papers gets an idea. So he visits Marilyn’s father Colonel Jefferson Davis Youngblood (Guy Kibbee) who’s trying to write a book about how the South really won the Civil War. After reminding the Colonel that Boardman is a Yankee Markham tells Marilyn’s father that if she marries Boardman and quits the stage he’ll lose his income from her. Therefore he convinces the Colonel to take out a policy which pays $50000 if his daughter gets married so that he’ll have enough to complete his book if she does. Of course Markham intends to marry Marilyn himself to get even with Odds. Again against the advice of Numbers Odds takes the Colonel’s bet for $100 week over the policy’s term 3 years. When Numbers shows Odds that the paper says Marilyn is practically engaged to Boardman he and his staff Doc really conspire to convince the hypochondriac Boardman that marriage could be fatal and that he should spend the next 3 years abroad. Odds has Steve monitor Marilyn’s dating habits and he & his staff establish a three (strikes and you’re out) date rule – anyone who dates her more than 3 times is “eliminated”. The first to invoke this course of action is David Van Dusen (Errol Flynn) who is made to appear to be a gangster during his fourth date with Marilyn.
When Marilyn recognizes Odds at the “demise” of her second suitor they begin dating. Though he has really fallen for Marilyn Odds tells his staff that he is “keeping her out of circulation”. When Marilyn visits him at his (now) insurance offices she sees her father come in to make a payment on his policy. Later after getting the Colonel drunk on mint juleps she learns about the policy and thinks Odds is just protecting his investment. She decides to ensure that he falls in love with her in order to break his heart.
I’ve given away a good portion of this short movie’s plot given its length so I think I’ll stop here. Of course Markham will enter into the picture again and you might have figured out where things are going anyway. Though Herman Bing is credited he appears only briefly (his scene may have been cut) with a dog at the offices. Also you may recognize Brooks Benedict who appears uncredited in this film as well.