A surprisingly carefree happy widow (Merle Oberon looking rather worn out) is hanging out with an old pal (Robert Sterling, who talks like Ronald Coleman) on a yacht anchored off Monte Carlo. She hates gambling so she doesn't want to leave the yacht, which beggars the question why in hell did she decide to go with him to Monte Carlo where there's nothing to do but gamble.
Eventually her pal convinces her it's fun to go "gambler watching." He teaches her the fine art of how to read the hands of the players, to deduce their moods & intentions & biographies by whether their hands tap nervously, are calm, are mechanical, or what-not.
She then becomes intrigued by a fellow putting on an exaggerated puppet show without the puppets, wringing his hands & flopping them about on the routlette table. From this she correctly deduces he has lost all his money & intends to commit suicide.
Of course wealthy widows always fall immediately in love with plain-looking impoverished suicidal & abusive shitheads, so after stalking him for a while, she has the whirlwind romance of a lifetime. Such is the premise, at least, of Affair at Monte Carlo; aka, 24 Hours in a Woman's life (1952), & it was not a premise I found convincing for these actors as these characters.
Inspired by a short novel by Stefan Zweig, the unlikely romance could've had a nutty flair, & even the casting of relatively unattractive people could have led to a seriousness such as mere beauties rarely achieve. But the story is just badly scripted & unbelievably acted, so it needed actors that were kinder on the eyes. And it's unfortunate to admit but Merle Oberon was no longer the romantic beauty she'd been well over a decade earlier in Wuthering Heights (1939), while the leading man, Richard Todd, has no more appeal than you'd expect from any ill-tempered suicidal gambling addict.
The gambler's array of negative traits never add up to much of a character, certainly not someone who'd inspire love at first sight, unless the point was supposed to be that the "happy" widow was stark raving insane. And that wasn't the point. So the movie more ridiculous than it is engaging.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl