There are many memorable gambling scenes in the movies. However, what about in period drama tv series and films we love with all their costumes, sets, and props typical of the period they are set in? Do any of these have great gambling set pieces, and what do they tell us about the period in which they are set?

Fashionable France

Marie Antoinette was a recent BBC success. It portrayed gambling as the pastime of the wealthy. The series charted the early years of Marie and Louis’s early relationship. He was so shy he could not converse with his beautiful Austrian bride. Ostracised from her family, she found entertainment at the games’ tables and the harpsichord.

She held raucous parties at her villa in the grounds of Versailles Palace. Antoinette spent fortunes on gambling. Her game of choice was lansquenet, and she might lose up to a thousand louis d’or in one day. The series portrays her as the influencer she was with her outrageous hairstyles and sumptuous gowns. Marie Antoinette made the gaming tables fashionable and famous.

A Duchess and a debt

In England, another upper-class lady made the French queen appear to be a model of sobriety. There are several gambling scenes in the 2008 film Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Keira Knightley starred in the title role and shows the young Duchess following a hedonistic lifestyle. She was married at seventeen, but her husband had no interest in her other than to provide him with an heir.

The film shows her turning the drawing room into a casino where all her friends and acolytes join her. She hired croupiers and even set up a bank. One memorable scene sees an inebriated Georgiana wanting to participate in the gaming. However, she is broke. So she borrows her stakes first from a friend and then from the house bank. After a losing run, she wins on her hand and leaves the party. In her excitement, she does not repay her debts. Her powerful position meant that no one was going to challenge her carelessness.

By order of The Peaky Blinders

Period dramas and gambling combine perfectly in the hit TV series about the best-dressed businessmen in town – The Peaky Blinders. Their whole illegal business setup revolves around sports betting and unlawful business practices. Thomas Shelby always comes out with the deal he wants – this is either down to his impeccable negotiating skills or the fact that the peak of his cap conceals a razor blade.

Peaky Blinders style gambling is a far cry from a Duchess’s drawing room or a Queen’s villa. Peaky Blinders is all about turf wars over residential areas and racecourses. Holding the turf was the opportunity for the gangsters to make money. Peaky Blinders is so engrained in gambling culture that there is an official online slot that is highly rated at online slot review sites.

The Great Gatsby

Possibly the ultimate movie period drama of recent years is Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 Great Gatsby. The film starred Leonardi di Caprio as the enigmatic Gatsby, with Tobey McGuire as the narrator, Nick Carraway. Gatsby takes Carraway to a barber shop unlike any other. The shop is a front for the ultimate casino, hidden from prying eyes as the story is set at a time of prohibition.

The club is full of dancing girls, gaming tables, and bootleg liquor. The music is booming, and fun and frivolity are in order. The slightly surprising reveal is when Gatsby namechecks the Police Commissioner and the Senator. The club might be an illicit one, but no one is interested in shutting it down.

Carraway asks Gatsby who the man is who brought them to the barber shop club.

“Who is he, anyway, an actor?” says Nick
Gatsby replies, “He’s the gambler. He fixed the 1919 World Series”.

The scene captures the roaring twenties and the decadence of the jazz age. However, the music in this section of Luhrmann’s film is from a contemporary club but does not sound out of place.