The Bette Davis Project: The Rich Are Always with Us (1932)

The Rich Are Always with Us (1932)

Synopsis:

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:

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, is reminiscent of Noel Coward’s drawing-room plays. It’s not the kind of material that ages well, but the actors are good and the story is very entertaining.

Chattertton was at the time the highest paid actress in Hollywood. She had a lucrative multi-picture deal with Warners that gave her choice of directors and writers. She hand-picked the story, and the material fits her well. 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. Chattertton and Brent have great chemistry (they became an item in real life).

Bette Davis has a supporting role as a young heiress. This was Davis’s third movie at her alma mater, Warner Bros. The studio, 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! Davis claimed that she enjoyed making the film and always spoke kindly of Chattertton, who treated the newcomer with respect and consideration. This is also the first film Davis made with Brent, who went on to be her co-star in many films.

The cinematography is by Ernest Haller (Jezebel and Gone with the Wind). He 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 of one 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. With Virginia Hammond, Walter Walker, and Adrienne Dore. B&W, 71 minutes, Not Rated.

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