You'll Never Get Rich

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday April 25, 2017

You'll Never Get Rich

What's striking about "You'll Never Get Rich" -- available now in a pristine 1080p hi-def Blu-ray edition from Twilight Time -- isn't just Fred Astaire's glorious dancing (or that of co-star Rita Hayworth, whose moves are just as sublime), or the Cole Porter score. Rather, it's the fact that this movie anticipates World War II (it was released in September 1941) and seemingly acts as a kind of sugar coating for the military service that the Greatest Generation was soon to enter into by the millions.

The title is taken from the 1917 Isham Jones song "You're in the Army Now," and, after a less than scintillating opening sequence, much of the film takes place on an Army base where new draftee Robert Curtis (Astaire), a theater choreographer, has retreated in a bid to escape an uncomfortable situation he's been thrust into by the schemes of his adulterous boss, theater owner Martin Cortland (Robert Benchley).

Army life is presented as a series of improbable pranks and misadventures, but it's all in good fun; Robert has two new pals, Swivel Tongue (Cliff Nazarro) and Blain (Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams) who are willing to get themselves locked up in the guardhouse by participating in Robert's own madcap romantic machinations.

The object of Robert's affection is Sheila (Hayworth); the complication is that Sheila already has a suitor, in the form of Army Captain Tom Barton (John Hubbard). The usual roundelay of confusion and contorted plotting ensues: Sheila and her urbane aunt (Marjorie Gateson) also end up at the Army base, as does Martin, who's now pursuing a new extramarital conquest with a starlet named Sonya (a German proto-villainess played by Osa Massen). In order to give Sonya a starring role, Martine arranges for a show for the troops -- and he gets Robert out of the guard house to help put it all together. Robert, however, sees a chance to further his own campaign with Sheila, who at least seems to love him in return. Frieda Inescort also drifts through the film as Martin's bemused wife, a smart and indomitable woman who views her husband's antics with a jaded, and increasingly exasperated, eye.

It's a silly movie, with little of the whip-smart snap and crackle that made the best '40s romantic comedies pop off the screen. Then again, this is a less romantic comedy than service comedy, albeit one that's tarted up with some fantastically skilled hoofing. It also comes across as a (strangely inept) propaganda film, with a dance number featuring a wedding cake in the shape of a tank serving as both high and low point. It's ridiculous, and not even in a fun way.

But the film does showcase Hayworth in her first big movie, and seeing her dance with Astaire (as she did again in 1942's "You were Never Lovelier") makes it easy to forgive the film's many flaws and overall vacuity.

This release offers little in the way of special features. There are a trailer and an isolated score track -- a lovely thing, in this case, give Porter's music and a couple of performances by The Four Tones (cast as African American fellow habituťs of the guard house, where Robert ends up time after time), and -- the apex of the fun -- one of Julie Kirgo's invariably bright and elucidating essays. A curio in many ways, this is also a film with some thoroughly redemptive virtues.

"You'll Never Get Rich"



Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.