Best Man Wins

Best Man Wins is a 1948 American historical drama film directed by John Sturges, based on a story by Mark Twain.

Best Man Wins
Directed byJohn Sturges
Produced byTed Richmond
Written byEdward Huebsch
Based onThe Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
by Mark Twain
StarringEdgar Buchanan
Anna Lee
CinematographyVincent Farrar
Edited byJames Sweeney
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • May 6, 1948 (1948-05-06) (U.S.)
Running time
78 mins.
CountryUnited States


The year is 1853 when inveterate gambler Jim Smiley (Edgar Buchanan) returns to his hometown of Dawson's Landing in Missouri after being away for a decade from his wife and son. He brings a jumping frog which he calls Daniel Webster with him, and immediately upon his arrival to the town hotel makes a bet with Sheriff Dingle (Stanley Andrews) and a few others, that the frog can jump when told to do so. He wins the bet and is able to pay for his stay at the hotel with the money.

Next he visits his wife Nancy (Anna Lee), who turns out to be his ex-wife and is about to marry the town judge, Leonidas K. Carter (Robert Shayne). He still gets to meet his son, Bob (Gary Gray), who he has never met before. To make amends and win the boy's heart, he intends to buy him a racing Greyhound.

Jim manages to gather a sum of $300 to buy a certain dog that Bob has set his eyes on, Andrew Jackson III, and Bob trains it to race it in an upcoming contest. But Bob is made fun of by one of the judge's own spoiled sons, Monty (Bill Sheffield), and Jim becomes determined to win back both his son and his wife from the snobby Leonidas.

Jim begins by renouncing gambling altogether and getting a job at the local hotel. He relapses however, by placing a bet on the judge's prize runner to win the race. Instead Bob's dog wins the race, and Jim feels guilty over having lied to Nancy and let his son down by not believing in him. Since Nancy believes he is a reformed man she agrees to marry him again.

When the wedding day comes, Jim still feels bad about his lies, when he discovers that Bob and Monty are betting. He tries to teach his son about the perils of gambling, but his guilty conscience makes him cancel the wedding. The judge also tries to stop the wedding by challenging Jim's ability to pay for the ceremony, which costs about $1,000.

The challenge turns into a bet, where Jim stakes $1,000 that his frog will beat his friend Amos' (Hobart Cavanaugh) leaper, Martha Washington. Jim goes on to fix the race, but refuses to accept his prize money when he wins. In doing so, he restores his dignity in front of Nancy. Jim layer confesses to Nancy about the bet on the previous dog race, but she is still happy about his new honest behaviour and agrees to remarry him anyway.[2]



  1. Glenn Lovell, Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008 p46
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