GAMBLING LADY. Warner Brothers, 1934. Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Pat O’Brien, Claire Dodd, C. Aubrey Smith, Robert Barrat, Arthur Vinton. Director: Archie Mayo.

   You don’t watch Gambling Lady for the dialogue or the plot. Both of which aren’t all that bad. You watch it for Barbara Stanwyck. Because she’s absolutely great in this otherwise passable, albeit by no means exceptional, Warner Brothers programmer.

   True to pre-code form, this one’s got gambling, marital infidelity, and Manhattan high society. It’s into the latter that Lady Lee (Stanwyck) marries into after she falls in love with Garry Madison (Joel McCrea), a man determined that his new wife cut ties with her gambling friends from her past. But as any rags to riches story can tell you, it’s not always so easy for someone from the wrong side of the tracks to abandon her past friends and associates.

   That’s especially true for Lady Lee and her relationship with a bookie named Charlie Lang (Pat O’Brien). When Lang gets in trouble with the law, Lady feels as if she has no choice but to help him. But at the cost of losing her Garry to his meddling ex, Sheila Aiken (Claire Dodd) who is determined to get Garry back at all costs.

   Indeed, although there is a murder in the movie, this one is more of a drama – dare I say melodrama – than a crime film. It’s certainly not gritty. But Gambling Lady, much like Stanwyck, has spunk, making it a short, but entertaining programmer that’s nothing special. But it’s not half bad either.