• You'll Never Get Rich

    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: May 4, 2017
    Directed by: Sidney Lanfield
    Cast: Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Robert Benchley, John Hubbard, Osa Massen, Frieda Inescort, Guinn Williams, Donald MacBride, Cliff Nazarro, Marjorie Gateson, Ann Shoemaker, Boyd Davis
    Year: 1941
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Martin Cortland (Robert Benchley) is a disgusting hound who likes to have affairs with the women in his employ (he’s a theater owner who regularly puts on shows), despite having a beautiful, devoted wife (Frieda Inescort), one who happens to be smart enough to see through his ruses. When dancer Sheila Winthrop (Rita Hayworth) is cast in one of his plays, Cortland decides he wants her, but his attempt at arranging a hookup backfires, and his wife catches on. Cortland goes to his director, Robert Curtis (Fred Astaire), for help, which means that Curtis must pretend to be Sheila’s real paramour. Sheila is attracted to Robert, and Robert is attracted to Sheila, but she has other suitors and he’s too busy for love. When Robert tries to help Cortland out over dinner one night, the plan puts Sheila off. Not helping matters is the fact that handsome military captain Tom Barton (John Hubbard) has invited Sheila to the army base where he’s stationed. After an unfortunate incident with Tom, Robert decides to enlist to escape what he believes is certain death. Unfortunately for him, he is sent to the same base where Tom is stationed. Regretting his decision to enlist and hoping to woo Sheila, Robert gets himself into even more trouble, going AWOL and stealing an officer’s uniform. Summarily thrown into the guardhouse, he plots how best to fix his situation while also winning Sheila over and out of the arms of Tom; to this end, he enlists the aid of two fellow soldiers, Swiv (Cliff Nazarro) and Blain (Guinn Williams).

    You’ll Never Get Rich is notable for a couple of reasons. 1) The film features the songs of notable musician Cole Porter. Porter was born in Peru, Indiana in 1891 and learned to play key instruments at an early age. In 1909, he entered Yale University, where he wrote numerous songs, including several that are still played on campus to this day. After a brief but failed attempt at a Broadway career, he moved to Paris, where he was allegedly a member of the French Foreign Legion during World War I (there is some evidence to corroborate his claim). There, he met a wealthy divorcee from Kentucky; though she was aware of his homosexuality, the two married and remained so until her death in 1954 (she was several years his senior). By the end of the 1920s, he had found major success as a musical playwright, ensuring a long and lucrative career. By the early 1930s, Hollywood was calling and the rest, as they say, is history. While You’ll Never Get Rich is only marginally a musical, Porter’s songs certainly add to its appeal, with “Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye” receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Song.

    2) The film made a star of Rita Hayworth. Hayworth (real name: Margarita Carmen Cansino) began her career as a dancer with her father, though by the mid-1930s she was getting small parts in low-budget Hollywood films, including Fox’s Charlie Chan in Egypt and Dante’s Inferno (both 1935). Seen as too exotic, she was mostly given roles as foreigners mostly from the Middle East or Upper Africa. After adopting a new name, changing her hair color, and having surgery to change some aspects of her appearance, Rita Hayworth signed a contract with Columbia, where she was shuffled into minor appearances—until a small part in a Howard Hawks film established a fan base and convinced Columbia execs to give her bigger and more dance-worthy roles, leading to her breakout performance in You’ll Never Get Rich.

    3) The film revitalized the career of Fred Astaire. Astaire’s dancing career began on the stage, and he proved popular on Broadway and in London. Interestingly, it was with a Cole Porter song that he proved his mettle. In the early ‘30s, he signed a contract with RKO, who immediately loaned him to MGM. Soon after, he was paired with another dancer, Ginger Rogers, and before all was said and done, the two had made a number of pictures together, most of them highly successful. Not wanting to be typecast as part of a dancing due, however, Astaire struck out on his own, and his subsequent films—including two more with Rogers—were duds at the box office. After his contract with RKO ended, he wandered the wilderness as a freelancer, but it wasn’t until he was paired with Rita Hayworth at Columbia on You’ll Never Get Rich that his career experienced a resurgence that would last a lifetime.

    Make no mistake about it; while You’ll Never Get Rich is a musical second, it’s a comedy first. And for the first half of its running time, it’s hilarious. Witty double entendres and mild slapstick are brought together to perfect effect. The supporting cast is frequently very funny, and Astaire and Hayworth have an appealing charm. Too bad the script runs off the rails during the second half, when Astaire becomes the star and Hayworth is pressed into the background, getting only occasional and minor screen time. By the time Astaire’s Robert Curtis has made his way into the military, the laughs have all but ended. Too bad, too, given just how strong they were early on. Regardless, it’s easy to see why both Astaire and Hayworth were long for the world of cinema, with their best work yet ahead of them.


    Twilight Time brings Columbia’s classic musical comedy to Blu-ray with a new MPEG-4, AVC-encoded, 1080p high definition transfer. Placed on a BD50 dual-layered disc, the film is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. A considerable improvement over the previous DVD release, You’ll Never Get Rich features a crisp black-and-white image that is rarely marred by the usual film defects; instead, detail is generally high, particularly in articles of clothing and on furniture, with facial closeups also benefiting. Grain is there but not too prevalent, so grainophobes should have no problem with the image, while those who love grain will be satisfied by the filmic presentation. There doesn’t appear to be any DNR or edge enhancement tools in use, while black levels are strong. The gradations between white, gray, and black present a beautifully rendered image that is sure to wow modern audiences who might still believe that black-and-white films can’t look as good as modern or color films.

    The disc contains two audio tracks. The first is the film’s primary soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. It’s a delight for purists. The musical numbers are not mixed too loudly, and the characters’ dialogue is always discernible. Thankfully, Twilight Time offers Cole Porter’s beautifully realized songs on a separate audio track, also presented in lossless sound. In addition to Porter’s songs, the track also features the film’s effects. Now, usually this is cumbersome and annoying, but here it works well, given how often Astaire tap dances. (And some music and effects tracks skip the vocals on the songs, which does not happen here, we’re happy to report.) For the deaf or hearing impaired (or people who just like to read their films), optional English subtitles are provided.

    Extras are sparse. There’s a relatively long (at 3:45) theatrical trailer hosted by actor Robert Benchley, as well as liner notes in an 8-page booklet written by film historian Julie Kirgo. Anyone who has bought a Twilight Time release without reading Kirgo’s notes should be ashamed; they’re well written and highly informative, helping to elucidate any number of facts about the films they accompany. The booklet also features black-and-white stills as well as a full-color reproduction of one of the film’s movie posters.

    The film is divided into 24 chapters for ease of access, with a 25th chapter taking viewers back to the main menu. The disc is region free and limited to 3,000 units. It also features an onscreen Twilight Time catalog.

    The Final Word:

    You’ll Never Get Rich is half a fun film, half a dull one. But ultimately, those laughs at the beginning are so funny that it deserves at least one viewing (more if you love either Astaire or Hayworth—or both). The transfer Twilight Time has used is quite good and features a major upgrade from the previous DVD release. The sound transfer is also solid. Extras are sparse, but a score-and-effects track, a theatrical trailer, and liner notes are included.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out later this year.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!