Cast & Crew
To woo dancer Sheila Winthrop, theatrical impresario and philanderer Martin Cortland buys her a diamond bracelet inscribed with her name. While at the jewelry store, Martin also buys his wife Julia a back scratcher for their fifteenth wedding anniversary. After Sheila refuses the bauble, Martin accidentally switches the boxes and presents Julia with Sheila's bracelet. When Julia threatens divorce, Martin claims that he bought the bracelet as a favor to Robert Curtis, his dance director, who, he says, is in love with Sheila. To lend credibility to his story, Martin asks Robert to meet him and Julia at a nightclub and pretend that he is in love with Sheila. Sheila, who is attracted to Robert, is delighted to accompany him until he presents her with the bracelet in front of the Cortlands. Feeling betrayed and embarrassed, Sheila runs out of the club. The next morning, a photo of Robert and Sheila at the club appears on the society page of the paper with the announcement that they are almost engaged. Robert drives over to Sheila's apartment to demand an explanation and is met by Tom Barton, Sheila's boyfriend, who decides to teach Robert a lesson by pretending to be her brother. After Tom pulls out a gun and demands a shotgun wedding, Robert runs out the door and goes to Martin's office. When Martin informs Robert that he has just been drafted, Robert exclaims that the army offers the perfect solution to his problems. While unpacking his suitcase at bootcamp, Robert finds the bracelet. That night, Robert, feeling guilty over his treatment of Sheila, dreams about Tom chasing him with a pitchfork. When the sergeant tries to slap him awake, Robert slugs the sergeant and is sentenced to two days in the guard house. Soon after, Sheila and her aunt Louise come to visit Tom, a captain at the camp. Drawn by sounds of music coming from the guard house, Sheila goes to the window and sees Robert. Robert apologizes to Sheila for his caddish behavior and tries to impress her by claiming that he is a captain. Upon his release from the guard house, Robert steals a captain's jacket and goes to visit Sheila, who forgives him. There he meets Tom and the captain whose coat he stole and is sentenced to two more weeks in the guard house. Soon after, Martin offers to bring his show to entertain the troops and asks Colonel Shiller to assign Robert to the show. The colonel consents, but assigns two guards to watch Robert. When Robert insists on casting Sheila as the lead dancer, Martin, who has already promised the part to Sonya, his latest conquest, schemes to force Sheila out of the show. Unaware that Martin has changed the inscription on the bracelet from Sheila to Sonya, Robert tells Sheila that he has bought the bracelet from Martin as a gift for her. When Robert learns that Tom has been assigned to Panama and is planning to propose to Sheila that night, he hurries to retrieve the bracelet from Martin's apartment. Meanwhile, Martin, knowing that Sonya is at his apartment, sends Sheila after Robert. At the apartment, Robert finds Sonya dressed only in a robe, and when Sheila knocks at the door, he hides her in the bathroom. Robert's guards then appear at the door, so he and Sheila try to escape down the fire escape. When Sheila discovers Sonya, Robert relates his story which Sheila believes until he presents her with the bracelet that now bears Sonya's name. Announcing that she is going to marry Tom, Sheila storms out of the apartment. To get even with Martin, Robert calls Julia and invites her to the camp. At rehearsal, Robert introduces Martin's wife to Sonya, causing the dancer to withdraw from the show. To convince Sheila to return, Robert instructs his fellow recruits Kewpie Blain and Swivel Tongue to incite the soldiers to demand Sheila's appearance in the show. Faced with a line of picketing soldiers outside her house, Sheila relents and agrees to perform as Robert's partner. Robert then tells Kewpie and Swivel Tongue to install a real justice of the peace in the wedding dance number. After completing the dance, Robert kisses Sheila and announces that they are married. Sheila angrily runs off stage but is stopped by Martin, who finally tells her the truth. Forgiving Robert, Sheila goes to visit him at the guard house just as Colonel Shiller arrives to announce his release. As the newlyweds leave the guard house, Kewpie and Swivel Tongue, who have been digging an escape tunnel for Robert, break through the jailhouse floor.
Hal K. Dawson
P. J. Faulkner
M. W. Stoloff
You'll Never Get Rich
Robert pretends to be Sheila's fiancee and the true bracelet-giver. In the process of playing out that ruse, the two fall in love. Desperate to escape the increasingly complicated deception, beanpole Robert runs off to join the Army, using a brick in his hat to allow him to meet the Army's minimum weight requirements. Released just two months before Pearl Harbor, You'll Never Get Rich was one of the first Hollywood films to have a WWII setting.
Director Sidney Lanfield combines famed lyricist Cole Porter's songs (including the Oscar-nominated "Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye") and numerous humorous situations devised to keep lovers Astaire and Hayworth apart. The misunderstandings and comic episodes continue at the Army base where Sheila's real fiancee just happens to be a captain and where trouble plagues Robert who is perpetually landing in the guardhouse. There, he dances and sings alongside fellow "inmates" the Delta Rhythm Boys and freeform jazz musician Chico Hamilton, who has also provided the music for films like Sweet Smell of Success (1957) and Repulsion (1965).
Hayworth and Astaire made one other musical together, You Were Never Lovelier (1942). Rich helped catapult Hayworth, who had previously appeared in mostly B-pictures and supporting roles, to stardom. While the film was still in production Hayworth was featured in a cover story in Life magazine wearing a lace and satin nightgown and a provocative pose. The magazine dubbed Hayworth the "Love Goddess," and that seductive image became one of the most popular and reprinted pin-ups in movie history.
Astaire's own screen image at the time Rich was made, was by this time inseparable from that of his longtime partner Ginger Rogers. But Astaire and Hayworth were still a well-matched pair, despite Hayworth's initial nervousness at keeping up with a dancer as esteemed as Astaire and following in the nimble footsteps of Rogers.
Astaire tried his best to distract Hayworth from her anxieties and lighten the mood on the set with pranks like dipping his fingers in ice water before their dance numbers. He was also greatly impressed with the dancing abilities of his new partner, who had in fact danced professionally for years. Hayworth's father was the noted dancer-choreographer Eduardo Cansino, an old friend of Astaire's from his vaudeville days. Astaire was highly complimentary of Hayworth's abilities saying, "she learned steps faster than anyone I've ever known. I'd show her a routine before lunch. She'd be back right after lunch and have it down to perfection." Columbia may have had less confidence in Hayworth's singing abilities, since her songs were dubbed by Nan Wynn, reportedly because Columbia boss Harry Cohn was unwilling to shell out the money for Hayworth's singing lessons. Cohn's peculiar vision marked the production in other ways too. Cohn wanted to insure that Porter's tunes would be well-received by a general moviegoing audience, and so had the songs first road-tested with "ordinary" folk like secretaries and office workers, much to Porter's chagrin.
Combining elements of the behind-the-scenes musical and the life-in-uniform military comedy, You'll Never Get Rich was a box-office success praised by Variety for "a happy combination of music, dancing and comedy that spells box office." Benchley, the noted Algonquin Roundtable humorist and New Yorker theater critic, provides ample amusement as the skirt-chasing married man with a seen-it-all wife.
Astaire has said he enjoyed the costume change You'll Never Get Rich provided and the chance to finally rid himself of his patented top hat and tails as a uniformed soldier. He was, however, disappointed that the film would not be in Technicolor, a process made prohibitively expensive in wartime.
Director: Sidney Lanfield
Producer: Samuel Bischoff
Screenplay: Michael Fessier, Ernest Pagano
Cinematography: Philip Tannura
Production Design: Lionel Banks, Rudolph Sternad
Music: Cole Porter
Cast: Fred Astaire (Robert Curtis), Rita Hayworth (Sheila Winthrop), John Hubbard (Tom Barton), Robert Benchley (Martin Cortland), Osa Massen (Sonya), Frieda Inescort (Mrs. Cortland).
by Felicia Feaster
You'll Never Get Rich
A vocal performance of "Dream Dancing" by Gwen Kenyon was cut from the film.
In reference to the Porter song "Night and Day" sung by Fred Astaire in Gay Divorcee, The (1934), Cole Porter ended "The Wedding Cake Walk" with the phrase "night and day." He asked permission from RKO to quote the line.
Bugle call in-joke: see also Gay Divorcee, The (1934), Roberta (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), e.g.
The following actors and actresses were in studio records but were not seen in the film: Mary Currier (Costune Designer), 'Paul Irving' (General Trafscott), Stanley Brown (Draftee) and 'Tony Hughes (I)' (Prisoner).
The working title of this film was He's My Uncle. The picture opens with actor Robert Benchley seated in the back seat of a limousine as he drives past billboards displaying the production credits of the film. Although a Hollywood Reporter production chart places Kay St. Germaine in the cast, her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. This was the first of two Columbia pictures that teamed Rita Hayworth with Fred Astaire (see entry entry above for You Were Never Lovelier). Although Hayworth had been dancing professionally since her teens, this was her first major screen dancing role. According to Astaire's autobiography, Hayworth did not wear high heels in this film because Astaire was only slightly taller than she. The pair spent over seven weeks perfecting their dance numbers, according to Astaire.
According to a Columbia press release contained in the AMPAS Library production files, the army set in the film was almost an exact replica of Camp Haan, the United States anti-aircraft artillary post near Riverside, CA. The only part of the set that deviated from the camp was the guard house, which was enlarged to accomodate Astaire's dance routines. A news item in Hollywood Reporter adds that the eighteen-acre outdoor set that Columbia built to double for Camp Haan was the studio's largest since Columbia's 1940 film Arizona (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.0148).
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Musical Score and the number "I Kissed My Baby Goodbye" was nominated as Best Song. Modern sources credit Kalloch as gown designer, Irene as costume designer, Ray Howell as costume supervisor, Clay Campbell as makeup supervisor, Helen Hunt as hair stylist and John Livaday as chief sound engineer. Modern sources add to the cast The Delta Rhythm Boys, featuring Chico Hamilton, Buddy Colette, A. Grant and Red Mack. The dance number that Astaire performs in the guard house was titled "A-Stairable Rag," according to modern sources. Modern souces also note that Hayworth's singing voice was dubbed by radio and record performer Martha Tilton, who appears in an uncredited part in the picture.