Brewster’s Millions (1945)

“He wants you to spend until you’re sick of it — he wants you to learn to hate spending money!”

Synopsis:
Monty Brewster (Dennis O’Keefe) comes home from WWII to the news that his eccentric uncle has left him $8,000,000. The only catch is that he must spend $1,000,000 of it within 60 days, with no assets left at the end, and nobody — not even his bride-to-be (Helen Walker) — finding out what he’s doing.

Genres:

Review:
Brewster’s Millions — the eternally popular story about a man forced to spend a million dollars as quickly as possible — originated as a novel in 1902, was turned into a stage play in 1906, and has been adapted for film no less than nine times (twice in India). No matter which version you’re watching, however, it’s impossible not to immediately start calculating all the ways you would spend the money if you were in Monty’s shoes; indeed, as I expected, there’s a thread on the IMDb message board for the 1985 Richard Pryor version (which I haven’t seen), asking folks to contribute their thoughts on the subject. (Just for the record, I personally would hire somebody to help arrange an enormous gala event in as many towns and cities across the U.S. as possible, thereby giving the entire country a fun evening and calling it a million dollars within one day — but then there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell).

Dennis O’Keefe does an admirable job in the title role, handling the fast-paced dialogue with ease, and remaining sympathetic (not an easy task) until the very end. Performances by the rest of the cast — especially Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson (Uncle Peter in Gone With the Wind) as Monty’s raspy-voiced employee; Helen Walker as Monty’s understandably frustrated fiancee; and June Havoc as an aspiring dancer who misinterprets Monty’s motivations in funding her theatrical production — are fine as well. Unfortunately, however, it’s hard to really sit back and relax when watching Brewster’s Millions, given that we can’t help feeling anxious about both Monty’s troubles and the confusion his loved ones feel; plus, we’re kept in suspense about the outcome of Monty’s plight until literally the last few seconds of the film. As much as I enjoyed this well-made comedy, I won’t be coming back to it (or any other version of the story) anytime soon — I’m too exhausted!

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Dennis O’Keefe as Monty
  • Fine performances by the entire cast of supporting actors
  • Lots of snazzy dialogue: “That Trixie’s loaded with dynamite — and sex! She throws it around like she’s watering a garden!”

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

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One Response to “Brewster’s Millions (1945)”

  1. By all means, a must – now THIS is comedy!

    I wasn’t aware that ‘Brewster’s Millions’ was such a well-worn tale. I only know this version. (In fact, while watching again I had the thought: if a contemporary version had been ‘called for’, why didn’t Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters think of it for themselves while they were still a successful film couple? They’d’ve been divine!)

    Granted, the first fifteen minutes, while still peppy, give little indication of the hilarity that’s to come – but, in hindsight, the exposition is beneficial for revealing how all of the main characters really care for each other.

    At that point, the real plot kicks in, and it’s as if screenwriters Sig Herzig and Wilkie Mahoney downed about 12 pots of coffee and then sat down to type. Things (including endless wonderful throwaway lines) are so blissfully frenetic, in fact (which bodes well for repeat viewings), that it becomes clear what a marvel director Allan Dwan is with pacing; he knows just when to pull in the reins some and when to let fly.

    And he seems to enjoy actors, ’cause the entire cast appears to be having a ball! Which, of course, is much easier to have when you’ve got a juicy script to play. It’s inherently funny, of course, to watch a man throw money around for its own sake (and I esp. love hearing O’Keefe constantly asking people to make sure to get receipts), but all becomes more pleasurable when that same man starts to panic when he’s making more than he’s spending. As well, the last ten minutes are comedy heaven when O’Keefe must suddenly deal with the burden of $40,000 as the clock chimes the noon deadline. (His last line is, well, priceless.)

    One rollicking good time!

    Of special note: check the performance of Helen Walker against hers in ‘Nightmare Alley’ two years later. It’s clear she was an actress with range – that much sadder when we know how fate apparently worked against her.

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