A TV Review by MIKE TOONEY:


“The Name of the Game.”   An episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre. First air date: 26 December 1963 (Season 1, Episode 10). Jack Kelly, Pat Hingle, Nancy Kovack, B. G. Atwater, Steve Ihnat, Monica Lewis. Story: Fred Finklehoffe; screenplay: Frank Fenton. Director: Sydney Pollack.

   Don’t confuse this single show with the later TV series. The name of the game here isn’t fame but winning and losing at gambling, specifically casino craps.

   Jack Kelly plays an expert gambler who is down on his luck. Along comes Pat Hingle as an over-eager, impulsive Texas oil millionaire (he says he’s worth $10 million) anxious to beat the house at its own game.

   Hingle wants to win $200,000 and split it 50-50. Kelly agrees to team with Hingle as long as he does exactly what Kelly directs him to do. “I don’t tell you how to make oil wells,” Kelly informs him, “and you don’t tell me how to gamble.” Chafing at the restrictions, Hingle reluctantly assents.

   Kelly warns his partner that the odds always favor the house and that he may have to pony up at least a million to win that two hundred grand, but Hingle doesn’t seem to care. And thus begins a marathon bout of gambling, with Kelly having to rein in Hingle now and then. Director Sydney Pollack has one long-duration shot from directly over the craps table looking straight downward a “God’s eye view” of the action.

   It’s a long, hard slog but Kelly and Hingle finally do clear two hundred thousand. Hingle, however, is hot to double his winnings. Kelly, reminding his partner of their agreement, says it’s time to quit. He’ll be expecting his hundred grand after Hingle cashes in their chips. Kelly leaves the casino to see a girl he has just met (Nancy Kovack) and hopefully extend their romantic relationship.

   But Hingle is angry, accusing Kelly of being a penny-ante gambler and not the “player” Kelly fancies himself to be. Hingle is determined not to give his partner his cut, even if it means a fight ….

   But that’s not the end of it. There is a fine little twist in the story near the end where Kelly learns a valuable life lesson in the school of hard knocks.

   Although under an hour in length, “The Name of the Game” has a movie “feel” to it. There’s some nice misdirection in the plot, and the performances are uniformly convincing.

   Trivia: Knowledgeable sci-fi TV fans will recognize several familiar faces here. Nancy Kovack starred as a temptress in one Star Trek episode. From the same series, B. G. Atwater (later commonly billed as “Barry”) played the founder of the logical Vulcan civilization, and Steve Ihnat was a psychotic starship captain who insisted on being called “Lord” or bad things would happen.

   In a minor but memorable bit part, Grace Lee Whitney plays a statuesque blonde whose luck with the dice waxes but rapidly wanes; she had a continuing role as Yeoman Rand on Star Trek. And of course Jack Kelly played the impetuous young executive officer of the deep space cruiser C-57D who is torn to bits by the Id Monster in Forbidden Planet (1956).