Greg Morella (Gilbert Roland), like many casino-running men of his time, has decided to move his operation to the water to avoid the law. Anchoring his ship, Sylvania, three miles off the coast, Morella assures his operation is safe from the clutches of the police.
Aboard the ship one particular evening is Jim Carver (Wayne Morris), a reporter who has a cordial relationship with Morella. Or, seems to have a cordial relationship. Secretly, Jim is investigating Morella. Knowing that Morella has had several of his enemies killed, Jim wants to see justice.
Jim’s hopes may just come true with the help of Morella’s secretary, Laurie (Jane Wyman), with whom he’s falling in love.
Gambling on the High Seas was directed by George Amy. It is a remake of 1935’s Special Agent, which starred George Brent, Ricardo Cortez, and the great Bette Davis.
If you love Warner’s trademark newspaper montages, or enjoy your crime films with more straight drama than brawls, Gambling on the High Seas is a fine watch.
Wayne Morris brings an all-American, aw-shucks persona to the snooping reporter Jim. Gilbert Roland, on the other hand, makes himself easily believable in the role of the ruthless, gambling crime boss.
Roland basically plays polar opposite to Morris, showing no remorse, exacting revenge on those who have wronged him. His presence is intimidating, which makes it all the more surprising that his scenes with Morris are quite friendly!
This isn’t the usual good-vs.-evil rivalry. While Morris comes across sort of bland, it is interesting to watch him alongside Roland, who is intimidating but not altogether sinister. Morella seems to generally treat people well until they cross him, including reporter Jim.
When he is crossed, boss man Morella has a trusty sidekick/enforcer ready to carry out retribution, played quite well by Roger Pryor.
Also gracing the film with her talents is Jane Wyman. I always love watching Wyman, even in these little programmers that so heavily populate her earlier career. She isn’t given a ton to do as Morella’s secretary, Laurie, but does bring some snappy dialogue into the picture.
Like the not-too-tense conflict between Jim and Morella, Gambling on the High Seas isn’t as energetic or gripping as it could be. Running just under an hour, though, it’s a quick and easy watch, with good performances to keep the gamblin’ boat afloat.