The Only Game in Town (film)

The Only Game in Town

Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Stevens
Produced by Fred Kohlmar
Edgar Lansbury
Written by Frank D. Gilroy
Starring Elizabeth Taylor
Warren Beatty
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Henri Decaë
Edited by John Holmes
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • March 4, 1970 (1970-03-04)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10,235,000[1]
Box office $1.5 million (rentals)[2]

The Only Game in Town is a 1970 American drama film, the last directed by George Stevens. It stars Elizabeth Taylor and Warren Beatty.

The screenplay by Frank D. Gilroy is based on his play of the same name which had a brief run on Broadway in 1968.[3]


Aging Las Vegas chorine Fran Walker (Taylor) drifts into an affair with lounge pianist and compulsive gambler Joe Grady (Beatty) while waiting for her married lover, San Francisco businessman Thomas Lockwood, to finalize the divorce he has been promising to get for the past five years.

By the time Lockwood keeps his word and is free to marry his mistress, she finds she has fallen in love with Joe, who has finally accumulated enough money to fulfill his dream of relocating to New York City and beginning a new life there. Faced with the choice of a possible career in Manhattan or marriage to Fran, Joe opts for the latter after losing a tough poker game.

Production notes

20th Century Fox paid $550,000 for the film rights before the play opened on Broadway, with Gilroy to get $150,000 to write the script.[4] The play, starring Tammy Grimes and Barry Nelson, was not a success, running only sixteen performances.[5]

The film was budgeted at $11 million because of Taylor's insistence it be shot in Paris, France, so she could be near her then-husband Richard Burton, who was working on the film Staircase (1969) with Rex Harrison at the time. Stevens had previously directed Taylor twice with great success, in A Place in the Sun (1951) and Giant (1956).[5]

Frank Sinatra originally signed to play Joe, but when Taylor became ill and filming was postponed, he had to drop out of the project to fulfill another commitment with Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and was replaced by Beatty.[5]

Screenwriter Gilroy's experience making the film inspired him to write and direct the film Once in Paris (1978), which focused on his chauffeur during the Only Game shoot. Gilroy was so fascinated by the man he cast the driver as himself.

Director Curtis Hanson did a reworking of this film with his film Lucky You (2007), which dealt with a professional gambler out to break the bank in Las Vegas. The reworking was in the adding of a female singer and the gambler's father entering the World Series of Poker where the story is set. The film starred Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore and Robert Duvall.

Principal cast

Critical reception

Opening in 1970 to mixed reviews and was a box office bomb, this became the last film for George Stevens, leading him to retire from directing altogether.

In his March 5, 1970, review in The New York Times, Vincent Canby stated, "Assigning [Stevens, Beatty, and Taylor] to the film version of Frank D. Gilroy's small, sentimental, Broadway flop is rather like trying to outfit a leaky Central Park rowboat for a celebrity cruise through the Greek islands. The result is a phenomenological disaster . . . Nothing in The Only Game in Town seems quite on the up and up. Everything, including both the humor and the pathos, is bogus."[6]

In an undated review, Time Out London called it "a hoarily old-fashioned romantic comedy ... [with] occasional moments of life injected by Taylor and Beatty."[7]

TV Guide said, in an undated review, "Although some of the dialog sparkles, in general, [the film] is overly talkly and thinly plotted, a programmer dressed up in ermine."[8]

See also


  1. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p256
  2. Solomon p 231. "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, 6 January 1971, pg 11.
  3. "The Only Game in Town" Internet Broadway Database, accessed September 14, 2015
  4. Nat Segaloff, Final Cuts: The Last Films of 50 Great Directors, Bear Manor Media 2013 p 273-275
  5. 1 2 3 Parish, James Robert; Mank, Gregory W.; Stanke, Don E. (1978). The Hollywood Beauties. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House Publishers. p. 347. ISBN 978-0-87000-412-4.
  6. Canby, Vincent (March 5, 1970). "The Only Game in Town (1970)  Screen: 'The Only Game': Major Stars Converge on a Minor Script". The New York Times. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
  7. TM (undated). "The Only Game in Town (1969)". Time Out London. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
  8. Staff writer (undated). "The Only Game In Town: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
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