The Rich Are Always with Us (1932)

The Rich Are Always with Us (1932)


Socialite Caroline Van Dyke (Ruth Chatterton, Dodsworth) has everything she ever wanted: friends, money and a good husband. However, when she finds out that her hubby (John Miljan, The Plainsman) is having an affair with a much younger woman (Adrienne Dore, The Thirteenth Guest), Caroline is forced to reevaluate her life.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“You’re the only couple in the room that doesn’t look bored!”

Ultra-elegant drama about all those terribly important things that give the upper class a headache. The Rich Are Always with Us, directed by Alfred E. Green (Dangerous), is reminiscent of Noel Coward’s drawing-room dramas. It’s not the kind of material that ages well, but the actors are good and the story is very entertaining.

Ruth Chatterton was at the time the highest paid actress in Hollywood. She had a lucrative multi-picture deal with Warner Bros. that gave her the choice of directors and writers. She hand-picked the story and the material fits her well — The Rich Are Always with Us is one of Chatterton’s best early sound productions.

Chattertton makes the most of the rather thin plot and delivers a few witty lines with gusto. She also looks great in a series of gowns designed by Orry-Kelly (Some Like It Hot). Chattertton has great chemistry with co-star George Brent — I’m not surprised to find out that they became an item in real life.

Bette Davis gives a good performance in a supporting role. She plays a young heiress. Warner Bros., never known for wasting time and money, casted Davis in the film while she was in the middle of filming her part in So Big! She did The Rich Are Always with Us during the day, and reported at night to the set of So Big! This was also one of the first films Davis made with Brent.

The cast also includes Walter Walker (I’m No Angel) as Dante and Berton Churchill (The Cabin in the Cotton) as Judge Bradshaw. Sam McDaniel (The Great Lie), older brother of actress Hattie McDaniel (Gone With the Wind), plays a butler. The cinematography is by Ernest Haller (Jezebel). Haller was known for prettifying everything and his work here is notable for making the actors (and the sets) look good.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

The Rich Are Always with Us isn’t one of my favorite Pre-Code films, but thanks to its witty script and fine performances, it’s nevertheless a movie that fans of early 1930s Hollywood will enjoy. Trivia junkies alert: Paul Henreid wasn’t the first person to light two cigarettes in his mouth (a much celebrated scene in Now, Voyager). Brent invented the romantic trick in a scene with Chatterton. B&W, 71 minutes, Not Rated.

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