Gambling on the High Seas (1940)

(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

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!

(Image via TMDb)

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.


2 thoughts on “Gambling on the High Seas (1940)

  1. I always like these types of films…the little unknowns from the ’40s and ’50s that you can watch on TCM late on a weekend night, when you can’t sleep and just want to watch a movie for a little while. I usually spend every Christmas Eve doing this sort of thing…staying up late and watching an old movie.


    1. Yes! This happens more often on weeknights for me. Insomnia never seems to strike on, say, a Saturday night when I can sleep in as long as I please the next day haha. It’s always when I have somewhere to be at the crack of dawn. But just like staying up late to read a good book, I never regret a late night for an unfamiliar movie or two!


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