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Double or Nothing

Double or Nothing(1937)

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New York millionaire and philanthropist Axel Clark dies, leaving behind orders that the executors of his will are to disseminate twenty-five wallets containing a one-hundred dollar bill and an address to which it is to be returned. Four people are honest enough to return the money. They are singer Lefty Boylan, actress Liza Lou Lane, racketeer John Pederson, and dim-witted mug Half-Pint. All four are present at the reading of the will, which leaves only a token gift to Axel's brother Jonathan, his wife Martha Sewell, and their children, Egbert and Vicki. The remainder of the inheritance will go to whomever wins the debate that Axel and Jonathan had going for years. While Axel maintained that the ordinary citizen is intelligent and decent, Jonathan believes that working class is ignorant and crooked. Each of the four beneficiaries is given $5,000, which is to be doubled by honest means in thirty days. If any one of them is successful, the inheritance is his, while if no one wins, it will go to Jonathan. The four agree to split the profits if one of them wins, but Jonathan schemes to ruin their chances by appointing each of his family members to befriend one of them in order to procure information. Vicki, a beautiful and honest blonde, is paired up with Lefty, and they quickly fall in love. When she insists her family give up the fa├žade, her father lies to her that he has embezzled funds at the bank and desperately needs Axel's money. Pederson, resigned to make his first honest living, buys a worthless gold mine from Jonathan and warns the others about the Clarks' duplicity, but is ignored. After Half-Pint buys a miniature golf course, offering $4,000 to anyone who can get a hole-in-one, Jonathan brings a professional golfer over to clean Half-Pint out, but fails. When he is six dollars away from doubling his money, a drunkard gets a hole-in-one and the course closes down. Next, Liza Lou sets up a boating attraction that features chorus girls as oarsmen. During opening night, while Liza Lou performs a dance that the other girls mimic, the Clarks rig a portable pipe organ to play a song that makes Liza Lou undress uncontrollably. The other girls follow suit and the police close down the attraction. The beneficiaries' last hope is Lefty, who has rented a building from Jonathan in which he will open up a nightclub featuring his acapella "sing band." When Vicki delivers a lease that stipulates that the space must be used for storage only, Lefty is broken-hearted to discover she has sided with her father. The thirty days is up at midnight on the night of Lefty's opening. Vicki stays home and listens over the radio, while the Clarks are seated at a reserved table. In attendance is a Greek club owner named Nick Praxiteles, who has offered to pay Lefty $10,000 for a controlling interest in the club if he likes the performance. At intermission, Vicki arrives and swears her love, telling Lefty she wants to marry him. Nick is about to make a deal with Lefty when the authorities accuse Lefty of breaking the lease and give him five minutes to close the place. Stunning the audience, Lefty pulls a switch that moves the entire set on pulleys to the adjacent space, leaving the Clarks seated alone at the one table that is stationary. Nick makes the deal, and Lefty wins a fortune for his friends and his new wife.