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Film / The Luckiest Guy in the World

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The Luckiest Guy in the World is a 1947 short film (20 minutes) directed by Joseph M. Newman.

It is the 50th and last short in the MGM Crime Does Not Pay short film series that dated back to 1935. The film follows Charles Vurn (Barry Nelson), who has a serious gambling problem. Charles has been losing a lot of money betting on the horses, which is bad. He's been stealing the money from his job as an insurance salesman to gamble with, which is way worse.

Events come to a head when his boss, unimpressed at Charles's excuses for not getting the regular payments from policy holders, suggests that he may soon go to collect the money himself. Charles thus needs to come up with the money immediately. He goes home and asks for his wife Martha's savings, left from her mother. Martha refuses, and events take a tragic turn, and then take some more odd twists.

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Tropes:

  • Broken Aesop: It's a "Crime Does Not Pay" short, after all, but Charles gets away with everything! He's not blamed for Martha's death, the cops swallow his story about the dead guy in his car, he collects on his bet, he can deposit the landlord's check, he even stands to be made a partner at Ashlan Insurance! In fact the theme is that the world seems to be governed by nothing but luck, and that when your luck is good you can commit a bunch of crimes and get away with it, but when your luck is bad you might catch a random bullet while standing on the sidewalk.
  • Character Narrator: The whole story is told by Charles in flashback.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The gas leak in the apartment complex, as mentioned by both Martha and the landlord. Charles later finds out that there was a fire at the apartment after he left, and thus Martha is presumed to have died in a fire, and his desperate Faking the Dead plot proved to be unnecessary.
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  • Death by Falling Over: Charles finds Martha's nest egg hidden behind a picture. She tries to stop him from taking it. He pushes her away, she stumbles backwards, falls, hits her head on the radiator and dies.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: After getting away with theft, embezzlement, one case of manslaughter, and one case of premeditated murder, and collecting his gambling winnings to boot, Charles is killed by a random bullet meant for someone else due to a crime having nothing to do with him.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: It's a risky plan, finding a random stranger to drive you, then murdering them, switching wallets, and pushing the car off a cliff. Luckily for Charles the car bursts into flame as it tumbles down the hillside.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: As Charles is placing a bet he reminds the bookie about the bookie's taunting "yesterday". In other words, all that madness—stealing from the till, stealing from his wife, committing manslaughter, killing a man, faking his own death and escaping town, un-faking his death, being interviewed by the police, retrieving the incriminating letter from the office at work...all that took place within 24 hours.
  • Faking the Dead: In a tight spot after Martha's death, Charles on the spur of the moment finds a random stranger, murders him, and switches wallets, taking the dead man's identity. It works. Remarkably, after he finds out about his $10,000 gambling winnings and with the landlord's check in mind, he un-fakes his death—claiming the driver of the car knocked him out—and that works too.
  • Film Noir: An embezzler is driven to murder and faking his own death.
  • The Gambling Addict: Charles has a major problem. Not only is he in debt to his bookie, falling behind on his rent, and stealing from the till to gamble, it isn't even the first time he's done it.
  • How We Got Here: Opens with Charles, standing behind a cop in a gunfight, catching a bullet and collapsing. The whole rest of the story is an extended flashback with Charles's narration.
  • Idiot Ball: After all that, how does Charles get his? Well, the cop in the bar jumps out into the street after a burglar alarm sounds and gunfire erupts between the burglar and other cops. As the cop in the bar exchanges gunfire with the suspect in the street, Charles stands right behind the cop, watching. He gets shot and dies.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: The bulk of the Crime Does Not Pay episodes were docudramas, verging on Mockumentaries, in which an actor playing the "MGM Crime Reporter" would introduce another actor playing some sort of detective or policeman, and together they'd introduce the story. This episode lacks that Framing Device, instead sticking with Charles in voice-over narration throughout. Additionally, previous episodes of the series were crime dramas in which the police caught bad guys and brought them to justice. In this one Charles gets away with everything, including not just embezzlement but one case of manslaughter and one premeditated murder, only to be brought down by random chance. (In fact, this feels more like an early pilot for The Twilight Zone.)
  • Local Hangout: "The Lucky Bar, that was my hangout," says Charles. It's also where he meets his bookie.
  • Stealing from the Till: Charles is completely broke from a series of gambling losses. So he steals from the money he's supposed to be collecting as insurance policy payments for work. Unsurprisingly, it makes his problem worse.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Charles is ransacking the room for Martha's nest egg, he pushes her away, and she falls over and dies. Literally seconds later the landlord comes to deliver a fat commission check, having bought a piece of property on Charles's advice.
  • "World's Best" Character: The title uses the idea.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Martha's death in a fire and Charles's (supposed) death in a car crash just hours later probably would have been news, but not really big enough news to deserve "DUAL TRAGEDY WIPES OUT LOCAL COUPLE" as the top headline on the front page of the paper.

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