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Richards, A.K. Richards, A.D. (1997). Gambling, Death, And Violence: Hollywood Looks At Las Vegas. Psychoanal. Rev., 84(5):769-788.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Review, 84(5):769-788

Gambling, Death, And Violence: Hollywood Looks At Las Vegas

Arlene Kramer Richards, ED.D. and Arnold David Richards, M.D.

An American Dream

Las Vegas has been the focus and locale of several big Hollywood movies in the past decade. We have chosen three of these movies to represent Las Vegas as depicted by Hollywood. They seem to us to tell the story of the place, the activity it was built to house, the people who created it, and the people who go there to gamble. The three movies are violent. Two of them end in the death of their hero, and the remaining one begins with a death scene and ends with the death of an era. The point here is violence and violent death. Violence in the movies is arresting. Bottom line, violence is about dying. Movies tell us that death is only temporary. The actors who die do not really die. All of these movies about Las Vegas present heroes who have much in common with the hero of the conventional Western, just as Las Vegas has much in common with other Western towns. The stories follow a form parallel to that of the Western as well. They all feature the hero coming into town on a quest or at random, working out his meeting with destiny, and accepting the outcome. In this respect, they parallel the experience of the visitors who come to Las Vegas to gamble. The visitors to Las Vegas thus see themselves as like the cowboys who came to the frontier to seek their fortune.

According to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, the modal age of people coming to Las Vegas to gamble is between 55 and 65. They are people who are facing the waning of sexuality and imminent death. To these people, Las Vegas is the last promise of the American Dream. It declares that you can beat the odds.

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