The Only Game In Town

1970, Movie, M, 113 mins

Review

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This was one of the most expensive flops in Fox's history. Although the story is set in Las Vegas, Taylor insisted that it be filmed in Paris because her then-husband, Richard Burton, was in France making STAIRCASE (another bust) with Rex Harrison. The studio spent a fortune building Vegas sets at the Studios de Boulogne and paid the leads nearly $2 million, so the cost of the project ballooned to about three times what it would have cost to make the film in Nevada. Still, after 80 days of shooting in France, the filmmakers felt it necessary to do another 10 days of filming in Las Vegas. The play on which the film is based lasted less than two weeks on Broadway (with Tammy Grimes and Barry Nelson as its stars), but Fox gave its author, Frank Gilroy, a half-million or so for the rights to "The Only Game in Town" before it died, so the studio went ahead with the project. Frank Sinatra was orignially tapped to play the male lead, but when Taylor became ill and the production was temporarily detained, Sinatra had to fulfill another commitment and bowed out. The role then went to Beatty, who had recently turned down parts in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE, leaving one to wonder if he was actually reading scripts at this point in his career. George Stevens, who directed Taylor in GIANT and A PLACE IN THE SUN, was returning to filmmaking after taking five years off, probably due to the disastrous results of his previous film, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD. As for this story, Taylor is a tired Vegas showgirl who has been having an affair with married swinger Braswell, a wealthy San Francisco businessman who pays Taylor's rent and finances her fabulous wardrobe (Fonssagrives and Tiel) and her bouffant hairdo (Alexandre of Paris). Beatty, a gambling junkie who pays off his debts by playing piano for knockabout comic Henry, is trying to get his head above water so he go to New York to further his musical career. For five years Braswell has been promising to divorce his wife, but Taylor is losing hope. Beatty moves in with Taylor on a "no commitment beyond sex" basis, but the inevitable happens and the two fall in love. When Braswell shows up, having shed his mate, Taylor tosses him aside for Beatty.

Although some of the dialog sparkles, in general, THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN is overly talkly and thinly plotted, a programmer dressed up in ermine. In the film's only memorable sequence, Taylor and Beatty have an argument; then he races off to the casinos, where wins and then loses a bundle. His fortune lost, Beatty sits down at one of the garish fountains outside the hotel, takes out the last of his last money, a $100 bill, makes it into a tiny boat, and watches it sail away. THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN opened in January 1970 in Las Vegas and audiences stood in long lines to get in; however, that would be the only time that moviegoers would have to wait to see this dog of a film. A monumental waste of money, it cost more than $11 million and returned less than $2 million. Far more interesting than this film is ONCE IN PARIS (1978), the movie inspired by Gilroy's experiences in the City of Light while working on THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN. His chauffeur during the production was one of the most interesting characters he'd ever met, and not only did Gilroy decide to write and direct a film about him, but he also cast the driver as himself. leave a comment

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