You’ll Never Get Rich (1941)

“To a hungry man, a lamb chop is a tasty dish — but to the butcher, it’s just another hunk of meat.”

Synopsis:
A choreographer (Fred Astaire) helps his philandering boss (Robert Benchley) get out of hot water with his suspicious wife (Frieda Inescort) by pretending to have purchased an engraved diamond bracelet for one of his beautiful showgirls (Rita Hayworth). He soons finds himself in trouble with Hayworth’s beau (John Hubbard), and enlists in the army to escape; meanwhile, he realizes he really does care for Hayworth, and tries to win her heart.

Genres:

Review:
Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth’s first film together was this WWII musical comedy, featuring a catchy yet surprisingly forgettable score by Cole Porter. The ridiculous military “subplot” (actually a major part of the movie) is an enormous distraction from what we really want to see: Astaire and Hayworth dancing and falling in love. Whenever they’re together — or when Astaire dances alone — we’re in heaven; but when we’re forced to watch Astaire getting in continual trouble with his superiors — and landing repeatedly in an impossibly clean military brig — the story falters and sinks. Robert Benchley is intermittently amusing as the childishly caddish millionaire who lies through his teeth as a matter of course and isn’t above using his employees to get himself out of hot water, while Frieda Inescort as his snobbish wife is perfectly cast — but neither they nor Astaire and Hayworth can quite work the necessary magic with this sub-par script. With that said, while I can’t recommend You’ll Never Get Rich as must-see viewing, I suspect most film fanatics will be curious to at least check it out once, given its historical importance as the film which helped propel Hayworth to true cheesecake status.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Astaire and Hayworth’s too-short initial tap dance together
    YNGR First Dance
  • Astaire’s fabulous solo dances in the guardhouse
  • Astaire and Hayworth dancing to “So Near and Yet So Far” during the army show rehearsal

Must See?
No. While it holds some historical importance as Astaire and Hayworth’s first outing together, it’s ultimately not must-see viewing.

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One Response to “You’ll Never Get Rich (1941)”

  1. I’ll second this.

    FFs who know that Astaire always had it in mind to not repeat himself in dance routines (something I learned from a DVD feature for ‘The Bandwagon’) may or may not want to check out whatever he’s in regardless. Although the same may more accurately be said for dance enthusiasts.

    If you set out to catch all of Fred’s musicals, however, you’re going to have to put up with the lulls in the scripts of his lesser efforts, such as this. OR you could keep your remote handy between dance numbers. If you do in this case, you really won’t miss a thing – outside of some amusement in the film’s opening scenes (such as the clever way the credits start off).

    Astaire and Hayworth do have real chemistry throughout. When they dance, it’s immediately noticeable that Hayworth compliments Astaire’s physicality – something Ginger didn’t really do; instead, she augmented his classiness.

    I’ve always felt Ginger was a good actor who happened to be able to dance well enough. Another Astaire partner – Eleanor Powell – was a dynamite dancer, but not much of an actor. Hayworth had something of an edge over Ginger and Eleanor in that she was extremely charming and sexy at all times.

    And, yes, the biggest disappointment here is Cole Porter’s score. But even tho it’s also not memorable, the final number – ‘Wedding Cake Walk’ – is served up with real visual pizazz. So, if nothing else, do see the film’s last ten minutes.

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