|This won't be the last time he|
puts his hand to his face in desperation.
All good things have to come to an end, and when his favorite jockey is injured, Hewitt finds that he can't stop betting. Luckily for him he's a bank manager, allowing him to dip into the till, or, more accurately, a safe helpfully marked COMPTROLLER'S FUND, stealing $16,000 without anyone noticing. (This doesn't look like a bank that you could trust with your tip money, let alone your savings.) When that's not enough, he cashes in his war bonds, cleans out his accounts and skips the mortgage payments. Damn, why don't you take the quarters from the cystic fibrosis collection they have in every corner store?
|When you have lunch with a dame like this,|
the only item on the menu is trouble.
|Oh yeah. You can completely trust that guy.|
In another "only in the movies" scene, Hewitt, though mortally wounded, has enough stamina to drive to the home of his boss, explain the whole sorry story, return $20,000 of the $36,000 he stole and beg him to lie to his daughters so they can continue to worship his memory. He might have lived if the idiot maid had called for ambulance instead of the cops. You just can't get good help anymore.
The bleak tone of Two-Dollar Bettor is broken from time to time by the ridiculous scenes of home life. As with most movies even today, all the high school kids are clearly in their twenties. Hewitt's daughters are forever inviting their friends over to dance to that bland post-swing, pre-rock & roll music infecting the airwaves of the time. Hell, they even square-dance when Grandma sits down to play "Golden Slippers" on the piano while Uncle George calls out the moves. Did kids really engage in this bullshit even in 1951?
|This doll's a bad bet.|
|Who'd have thought|
that Alfalfa would grow up
to be Lee Harvey Oswald?
|You'd gnaw at your finger, too,|
if you lifted $36K from work.
If Two-Dollar Bettor were to be remade today, someone like Matt Damon would get the lead. And your first thought would be, "Oh, it's Jason Bourne, he'll get through this." And you'd be right. There would be no emotional connection whatsoever because the guy has proven himself damn near a superhero in role after role.
Yes, as played by John Litel, John Hewitt is a first class chump. But he's an old chump on a downward trajectory that he hasn't the ability to stop, and, as a result, arouses emotions that today's mainstream movies do everything in their power to avoid. No wonder why it took me two days to watch the 72-minute Two-Dollar Bettor; I'm not used to feeling anything in movies anymore. Today's studio product is made to deaden the senses. For that reason alone, Two-Dollar Bettor would never stand a chance with audiences now.
To put it another way: when was the last time you felt emotionally connected to any role played by Tom Cruise? Or Tom Hanks? Johnny Depp? You don't have to be a two-dollar bettor to call that one correctly.