CITY OF CHANCE. 20th Century Fox, 1940. Lynn Bari, C. Aubrey Smith, Donald Woods, Amanda Duff, June Gale, Richard Lane, Robert Lowery, Alexander D’Arcy. Director: Ricardo Cortez.

   If you know more than the first three names listed in the credits above, you ought to be given a prize for being a 1940s B-movie connoisseur extraordinaire! And in all honesty, most movie-goers today will not even recognize the first three, and this in spite of the fact that in total their combined list of TV and movie credits on IMDB adds up to 412. Not too shabby!


   Of the threesome, it is the best-looking who has the most: Lynn Bari, with 166. (I hope there is no argument as to whether or not she was the best looking.) A dark-haired brunette, she was in tons of B-movies in the 1940s, but to my mind she had the talent (and good looks) to have made the jump to A-status, but for some reason, she never really did.

   I remember her from her days on TV in the 1950s, and a comedy series I’m sure she was in. It must have been one called Boss Lady, on for 12 episodes on NBC in 1952, according to IMDB, but since I was only ten or so at the time, I’m not sure about that. (It is possible that she made such a favorable impression on me, even at that early age, that I remember her from it even today. She was very good-looking.)

   To the film at hand. City of Chance is only 56 minutes long, but in its length it takes in all of the events that take place in one “ordinary” night in an afterhours (and strictly illegal) casino somewhere in the US. (The town may have been named, but if so, it has slipped my memory.)

   The owner is one Steve Walker (Donald Woods), but the real brains behind him is “The Judge” (C. Aubrey Smith), a long-time confirmed gambler who has taken the younger man under his wing. Lynn Bari plays a lady reporter with a nose for news who’s made her way into the place under a false identity. She also has, we soon discover, plans to call in the D.A. and the cops (and her news editor) when she has the evidence she needs to have the gambling place raided.


   Turns out, though, that she and Walker were childhood sweethearts, and part of her motivation in closing him down may be that she is still sweet on him and she has personal reasons for wanting him out of the gambling business for good. Things are a little fuzzy in this regard, as they often are in romantic comedies from the 30s and 40s, but I know I’m 99% right on this.

   Also occurring on this night in question is what happens when Walker turns down a notorious gambler who wants to take over the operation, what happens when a shot rings out, what happens when one half of a newly married couple learns that a blackmailer has certain letters of hers to him, and what happens when the lady reporter learns that she is not allowed to…

   I’ll stop here. As alluded to above, there is as much comedy, of the screwball variety, as there is noir in this film, but I don’t believe that either of the two was the overall intent. The movie’s primary purpose was to be entertaining, and without a overabundance of production values, that’s exactly what Chance in the City is.

   But it’s even better with Lynn Bari in it.