Cary Grant generally played the same sort of man in all his movies: a confident gentleman who let the women chase after him. Although it took a while for the studios to figure out the part Grant would continuously play –Paramount had him playing whatever role was handy at the start of his career– it is that persona that we all have come to know him as.
In Mr. Lucky, Grant is cast in a seedier part but brings to it all the charm we would expect. He plays Joe Bascopolous, sort of. This gambler takes the name of the deceased Greek Bascopolous when he is issued a draft notice just ahead of a big gambling opportunity for he and his boat. Bascopolous’ draft card indicates he is unfit for service, so Joe and Zepp (Paul Stewart) flip for the freedom from war and the boat with it.
Joe next runs into Laraine Day‘s Dorothy, who is trying to sell tickets to a charity ball to support war relief. He declines to buy the tickets but visits the charity’s headquarters where he offers to run a gambling set up at the ball, which could easily raise the $100,000 the all-woman non-profit group aims to achieve. Both Dorothy and Captain Steadman (Gladys Cooper) resist the offer, but looking to win over the group, Joe hangs around. He ends up using his brute to get a truckful of supplies released to the war relief group ahead of payment and through his gambling tricks secures a load of blankets for free. The man also takes up knitting and soon all the men around him are doing the same.
Dorothy and the captain soon agree to the gambling at their ball, all of the proceeds from which Joe plans to abscond with. During his devilish deeds, however, he falls in love with Dorothy. This predictably leads him to back off the scam, but Zepp, who never went to war, has other intentions.
I struggled with whether to give Mr. Lucky a higher rating because I found it both amusing and unique because of Grant’s atypical part. On the whole, it really is nothing too special, but for the Grant fan it is probably worth exploring. The most interesting attempt Grant makes to look like a good-for-nothing is curling his upper lip under to create a kind of tough-man sneer-smile. He does it naturally, but it makes him sort of funny looking, so one finds it hard to take him seriously.
Day is amusing and beautiful and makes a good match for Grant. The latter teaches the woman a variety of rhyming slang from Australia that is used throughout the picture. For instance, “briny marlin” means “my darling”, “tit for tat” is “hat”, “twist and twirl” is “girl”, and “trouble and strife” is “wife”. The slang becomes a sort of secret language for the two as Dorothy uses it to save Joe from capture by the police.
Mr. Lucky is certainly marked by plenty of light moments, but it starts out on a very dark note and as the seedy gamblers come and go in the scene, the tone of the picture fluctuates.