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5.0 out of 5 stars Review of "Who's Got the Action?", January 30, 2011
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This review is from: Who's Got the Action [VHS] (VHS Tape)
PRINCIPAL CAST
Dean Martin as Steve Flood
Lana Turner as Melanie Flood
Eddie Albert as Clint Morgan, Flood's Law Partner
Walter Matthau as Tony Gagoots, Syndicate Boss
Nita Talbot as Saturday Knight, Gagoots' Mistress
Paul Ford as Judge Boatwright
John McGiver as Judge Fogel
Lewis Charles as Clutch, Syndicate Bookie
Margo Albert as Roza, Floods' Housekeeper
Dan Tobin as Mr. Sanford, Gagoots' Secretary
Alexander Rose as Mr. Herman Goody, Fogel's Brother-in-Law
John Indrisano as Thug #1
Mack Gray as Thug #2
Jack Albertson as Officer Hodges
Ned Glass as Baldy, Loan Shark
George Dee as Waiter at La Scala Restaurant
Jay Adler as Man Injured in Car Accident
Eddie Quillan as Dingo, Telephone Repairman/Wiretap Expert
Wilbur Mack as Octogenarian Groom in Boatwright's Chambers
June Wilkinson as Young Bride in Boatwright's Chambers
House Peters Jr. as Cop in Courthouse Elevator
Leonard Bremen as Heimie Strauss, Convict Sentenced by Fogel
Alphonse Martell as Maitre d'Hotel at La Scala Restaurant
Len Hendry as Nervous Lawyer in Fogel's Courtroom

Who's Got the Action? is a 1962 comedy film about a trial lawyer (Dean Martin) suffering from an addiction to horse race betting - an affliction which threatens to destroy his marriage - and a scheme hatched by his wife (Lana Turner) to cure him of it. Other starring roles are played by Eddie Albert, Walter Matthau and Nita Talbot. The script was written by Jack Rose, and the film was directed by Daniel Mann of Amro-Claude-Mea.

PLOT
Lawyer Steve Flood's gambling habit is beginning to get on the nerves of his wife Melanie, who initially suspects him of marital infidelity. When she learns about the gambling, Melanie talks Steve's law partner Clint Morgan, an old flame, into helping her act as a fictitious horse race bookie offering unusually attractive terms to clients.

The plan is for Steve to lose enough money to permanently rid him of the betting habit, but it goes awry when he suddenly begins winning bets on a number of long-shot horses. Flood's winning streak attracts the attention of two horse-playing judges, Boatwright (Paul Ford) and Fogel (John McGiver), who persuade Flood to place bets for them with his mysterious "bookie"; Melanie and Morgan are astounded when the judges begin winning large wagers as well.

The make-believe bookmaking activity arouses the ire of Syndicate mobster Tony Gagoots (Walter Matthau), who is furious to know who's "getting the action". Gagoots's mistress, a night club singer named Saturday Knight (Nita Talbot), happens to be the Floods' next-door neighbor, and assists Melanie in raising cash for the gambling payoffs by purchasing various furnishings from the Floods' apartment (using Gagoots' ill-gotten money).

The source of the mysterious "bookmaking" is traced to the Floods' apartment by Gagoots through an illegal telephone wiretap. He and a team of thugs descend upon the apartment, where they are surprised to find all the defecting gamblers assembled. They are thunderstruck when a coercive interrogation reveals that Melanie Flood is the "bookie" they have been seeking.

Steve Flood ultimately convinces Gagoots to forgive all of their gambling debts by arguing that only by marrying his mistress Saturday can he avoid the risk of incriminating testimony. In one stroke this fulfills Saturday's long-sought goal, saves the Floods' marriage, insulates Gagoots from future prosecution and clears Melanie's $18,000 gambling payoff burden.

EVALUATION
While "Who's Got the Action?" doesn't rank as a landmark comedy, it is thoroughly entertaining and well worth seeing. The principal cast members (Martin, Turner, Albert) give creditable performances, but the film benefits much more from knockout performances by the supporting cast (Talbot, Matthau, Ford, McGiver, Glass, various others). The musical score is also excellent. Many of the scenes were filmed on location in Flood's/Knight's luxurious penthouse apartments in the historic Talmadge building on Los Angeles' Wilshire Boulevard; much of the automobile driving shown runs up and down Wilshire. The pace of the action is very fast, with the gag lines (some good, some dull) coming every few seconds. An amusing sideline is the occasional views of Gagoots' s huge, light-flashing Univac computer, which keeps track of the Syndicate's illegal bookmaking operations.

CASTING NOTES
[See Principal Cast listing above]
Another court judge who figures in the story plot, John F. Swinely, is bamboozled by lawyer Flood into recessing court early so that they can trace Morgan's mysterious bookie. For some reason, the actor is nowhere identified or credited.

The Floods' vivacious Mexican housekeeper, Roza, doesn't figure importantly in the story, but was obviously inserted into the film as an amusing figure adding yet more humorous antics and gag lines. She is played by a well known film actress of the 1930s and 40s, listed in the movie credits simply as "Margo". (The abbreviation is understandable: her maiden name was Maria Marguerita Guadelupe Boldao y Castilla.) She married Eddie Albert (cast in this film as Clint Morgan) in 1945, and died in 1985. The cast listing above designates her as "Margo Albert".

MOVIE ORIGINS AND DESIGN
The storyline is based on the 1960 novel "Four Horse Players Are Missing" by Alexander Rose, who also plays a minor role in the film ("Mr. Goody"). (This novel, in turn, was closely related to a 1934 work by Alexander Hall, "Little Miss Marker".)

At the detail level, producer/script writer Jack Rose took many liberties to make use of the screen reputations of the cast members. For example, Dean Martin maintains his boozer image by telling a waiter at the "Blue Slipper" night club, "Pour scotch all over us"; in the film's opening scene he grabs someone else's cocktail on his way to the phone booth; disconsolate after losing a large horse bet, and holding a bottle of gin, he responds to his wife's question "When are you coming to bed?" by saying, "In about two quarts." Straight-laced John McGiver explains that he bets on horses only because "it annoys my wife." Walter Matthau's tour de force portrayal of mobster Tony Gagoots includes a parade of humorous cracks and incongruous actions (drinking from a glass of milk on his desk; biting loudly into apples; ordering his thugs to bring along the artillery "unless you object on religious grounds"; telling Mrs. Flood that he has a deal with Bennett Cerf - "He doesn't take horse bets, I don't publish books." Famous pin-up model June Wilkinson has no spoken lines, but appears in a bizarre scene in Judge Boatwright's chambers as a young bride preparing to marry an octogenarian groom. Ned Glass, with his pleasant but street-wise disposition and kosher-deli-proprietor facial appearance, is perfect in the role of loan shark "Baldy", bleeding Mrs. Flood for his usurious weekly "vigerish"; he declines an offer of a drink by explaining, "In my business, you never know what's in the drink." In a similar vein, syndicate bookmaker "Clutch" (Lewis Charles) tells Gagoots' thugs he wants to visit a church to light a candle; when asked "But you're Jewish, aren't you?" he responds, "Yeah, but I like to play the percentages." The song performed by Nita Talbot at the night club ("The Lady's In Love With You") was of her own composition.

ODDITIES/BLOOPERS
There is one curious anomaly: Judges Boatwright and Fogel show up in person at a local horse racing track (Hollywood Park) to witness the running of an elderly mare named "Sadness" on which they have made bets; this begs the question of why, if the judges could make it to the track, they didn't place legal pari-mutuel wagers there instead of making illegal bets through Flood's mysterious bookie (actually Mrs. Flood).

There also seems to be some confusion about the gender of the horse "Sadness" - although described by Clint Morgan as a female "with several of her children running in the same race," Morgan also points out that "he's spent the last two years on a stud farm." Later, Judge Boatwright asks Judge Fogel if he thinks "he's sweating too much."

Even after four horse players (Flood, Boatwright, Fogel, Goody) are "hijacked" from the Syndicate by the mysterious unknown bookie (Mrs. Flood), and are missing from the Univac computer, Gagoots somehow is aware that they have been continuing their betting ("a lot of action"); how he is able to know this without those players' records in his computer is a mystery.

When Morgan reveals under duress that Mrs. Flood is the mysterious bookie, Gagoots asks him if he has any relatives. Morgan responds "a mother"; Gagoots inexplicably says, "Well she's gonna be a widow if this don't check out."

Mrs. Flood's proposal that Syndicate boss Gagoots provide a winning horse bet to each customer purchasing one of her books would be a sure way to send the Syndicate to the poorhouse, as Gagoots seems to realize.

Dean Martin's forte, of course, is singing, not acting - and his spoken lines occasionally come out garbled and incoherent. ("Clint, you sure are a wonderful and a friend and a partner.") Martin's vocal rendition of the film's title song comes at the very end.
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