Hollywood’s inhabitants are geared to an industry which is especially subject to sudden changes.
This is to say that a highly organized attempt to guess what the public will want and when.
Gambling, apart from the sums wagered on horses, has attracted distinguished disciples in Hollywood.
For years, the Clover Club in Sunset Boulevard, and the Dunes in Palm Springs, catered to that part of the movie industry which enjoys Roulette and other games of chance.
Tia Juana, just across the Mexican border, Agua Caliente, and the great hotel at Ensenada used to be patronized heavily by film folk devoted to gambling and races, until the Mexican government abolished gambling.
Poker is particularly popular the top circles of the movie industry. Hollywood’s trade papers carry a heavy amount of gossip on Poker games and losses.
At one Santa Monica home, $15,000 has often changed hands in an evening of card play. There is no reason to be alarmed at the figure; no one of those who sat around the bitter table earned less than $2,500 a week.
Joe Schenck, Hollywood’s biggest and best liked gambler, suffered gambling losses of $30, 905 in one day, and his losses for one year (1937) totaled $64,894,15.
In another year, he lost over $20,000 – including $12,190 to Herbert Bayard Swope, $4,711 to Harpo Marx, $2,400 to Darryl Zanuck, and won $15,000 in election bets.
In one painful experience, Chico Marx lost around $7,000 and found it necessary to borrow $3,000 to make good his debt.
But there is no evidence that Hollywood’s stakes have ever scaled the heights of those games, famed in the annals of New York, where James Buchanan Brady won $180,000 in a night, or where ‘Bet-a-Million’ Gates, in concert with coffee tycoons, coke barons, and sulphur giants, exchanged $750,000 in a night between them.
The movie industry cannot produce gamblers like the Donahue who, according to Fortune, has lost $900,000 at the gambling tables in Florida.
Gambling is a violation of our moral creed, which rests on the axiom that property and power are earned, not won. However, the rich have generally given gambling wide license in their ranks.
For the rich are familiar with wealth which is derived not from skill, thrift, and virtue – the cardinal middle-class-virtues – but via sheer luck; inheritance, ‘contacts,’ nepotism, or lucky investments.
These fortunes of the rich are in greater or lesser measure testimonials to the role of good luck, and it is not surprising that they try to court to factor more widely.