Saturday, February 24, 2007

YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH (Columbia 1941) Sony Home Entertainment

Sidney Lanfield’s You'll Never Get Rich (1941) is the first of two musicals Fred Astaire made with Rita Hayworth after dissolving his partnership with Ginger Rogers at RKO. In hindsight, the pairing of Astaire and Hayworth seemed a natural. She was, after all, a trained dancer before she became an actress, while Astaire's reputation in the industry, arguably needs no introduction. 

Yet, although this film is light, breezy and brimming to the ceiling with comedy and music - ironically, there is precious little to recommend it as whole. Yes, Rita is lovely and exceptionally adept at performing intricate tap routines next to the formidable Astaire. Yes, Astaire is his usual urbane self, the epitome of sleek sophistication both on and off the dance floor. But the screenplay by Michael Fessier and Ernest Pagano is mired in its leaden plot of mistaken identity and goes absolutely nowhere fast.

Hoofer Robert Curtis’ (Astaire) employer – Robert Cortland (Robert Benchley) is a randy old sod with a roving eye for the ladies. This frequently lands him in hot water with wife, Julia (Frieda Inescort). To ease their marital strain, Cortland often relies on Curtis to pretend to be his romantic fop. However, currently both Roberts have their eyes on Sheila Winthrop (Hayworth) a chorus girl with so much more than just a pair of 'happy feet' to offer.To secure her part in Cortland's new show, an unlikely affair begins, then stops, then starts up again as Sheila suddenly realizes she has slowly begun to fall in love - not with Cortland, but Curtis. To get Curtis out of the picture - literally - Cortland conspires to have him drafted into the army.

The rest of the film is genuinely forgettable, as Curtis tries everything he can to convince Sheila that he’s a straight arrow with only one heart in dead aim – hers. Of course, less than stellar plotting could easily have been overcome if the musical program were worth half the price of admission.

Sadly, there are few bright spots of inspiration. Astaire’s ‘Shootin’ the Works for Uncle Sam’ is patriotic and pleasant enough, as is his solo tap routine inside an army prison. But the film’s two too brief pas deux between its two formidable stars are a bore. The finale – a sort of glam-bam ode to the war bride, with dancers atop an art deco army tank, is garish, gaudy and haphazardly staged. At best, You’ll Never Get Rich is a film that passes effortlessly from the subconscious shortly after the houselights have come up.

Sony Home Entertainment’s DVD is average. The gray scale has been adequately mastered. Contrast levels appear slightly bumped up with an inherent loss of fine details as the most obvious result. Whites are slightly blooming. Blacks are not entirely black. Age related artifacts; dirt, scratches et al are evident and, at times, distracting. Film grain is also rather obvious. The audio is mono but adequately represented. There are NO extras.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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