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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
You'll Never Get Rich (1941)

Robert: Confidentially, Sheila, I'm delighted every time you make a mistake. It gives me a chance to dance with you.
Sheila: Confidentially, I make mistakes for the same reason.

- Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: December 03, 2003

Stars: Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Robert Benchley, Osa Massen, Frieda Inescort
Director: Sidney Lanfield

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:28m:14s
Release Date: October 21, 2003
UPC: 043396103696
Genre: musical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Very few dancers can steal the focus from Fred Astaire. Rita Hayworth, however, is one of them, and in You'll Never Get Rich she does so effortlessly. When the two share the screen, Hayworth's ethereal glamour and grace overpower the lanky Astaire, and Hollywood's greatest male dancer fades into the background like a chorus boy. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but with her million-dollar smile, flowing auburn tresses, svelte figure, gorgeous gams, and impeccable musical sense, Hayworth floats across the dance floor like a celestial angel, melting hearts while raising blood pressure. Just try and take your eyes off of her. It's no wonder she earned the nickname The Love Goddess.

And it's no wonder she eclipses Astaire in their two films together. While Astaire whirled about a dizzying array of top female dancers over the course of his long career—Ginger Rogers and Cyd Charisse among them—none of his partners could rival Hayworth's style, ease, and beauty.

So it's a real shame that You'll Never Get Rich, their first joint outing, is so disappointing. Despite the talents of its two leads, a Cole Porter score, and a solid supporting cast led by the hysterically funny Robert Benchley, the film is little more than a silly exercise in pre-war propaganda, and a musical in which the music is given embarrassingly short shrift.

Produced during Astaire's "transition period"—a five-year stretch of freelancing between his Ginger Rogers days at RKO and his renaissance at MGM—You'll Never Get Rich was made at Columbia, and although the film tries its best to mask the studio's poverty row reputation, the shoestring budget and utilitarian production values are all too apparent, especially during the musical numbers. A far cry from the art deco grandeur of RKO and MGM's Technicolor gloss, the sparse backdrops and minimalist musical sequences give You'll Never Get Rich a thrown-together feel and make Astaire look like he's slumming. Hayworth supplies some much-needed class, but the dated, contrived script swallows them both.

Astaire portrays Broadway director Robert Curtis, who must cover for his philandering producer, Martin Cortland (Benchley), when Cortland's wife Julia (Frieda Inescort) discovers a diamond bracelet meant for chorus girl Sheila Winthrop (Hayworth). Robert agrees to date Sheila to throw Julia off the scent, but when complications multiply, he enlists in the army as a means of escape. Of course, by now he's smitten with Sheila, so when Cortland brings his show to the training camp to entertain the troops, Robert risks incarceration by impersonating a captain to win her affections.

Although Astaire spends most of the film in skivvies and guard house fatigues, he still finds an opportunity to don top hat and tails, as he dances the lilting, Spanish-tinged "So Near and Yet So Far" with Hayworth. Shot in just two takes, the lengthy, elegant sequence showcases the stars' chemistry and complimentary dance skills, as does an electrifying—yet far too brief—tap duet early in the film. Unfortunately, Astaire's other numbers find the dancer saddled with uninspired moves (especially in a subpar solo turn) and so overwhelmed by chorus girls he's almost swallowed up by all the traffic. Director Sidney Lanfield and choreographer Robert Alton should have realized such superfluous trimmings diffuse Astaire's magic; that fine music and an occasional partner are the only materials Astaire needs to weave enchantment.

Cole Porter's weak score, however, doesn't help, nor does Columbia's shoddy treatment of it. Many songs receive only a throwaway instrumental rendition, while others are hampered by drab presentations and truncated readings. As a result, You'll Never Get Rich seems less like a true musical than a lowbrow army comedy with songs. (Only four numbers feature vocals—an abysmally low number for a Hollywood musical—and just two of those are performed by Astaire, hardly giving the dancer's fans their money's worth.) One can only imagine what a more artistic outfit like MGM's Arthur Freed unit could have done with You'll Never Get Rich. Columbia's chintzy production merely proves that stars like Astaire and Hayworth can brighten a second-rate musical, but they can't save it.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: If Columbia is going to persist in plastering "remastered in high definition" on their DVD classics, then they need to find cleaner source material, so unsuspecting consumers won't feel ripped off. Sure, You'll Never Get Rich enjoys nice clarity, but the print itself is so washed out and banged up, it cancels out any hi-def benefits. Scratches, an overabundance of grain and a blizzard of white spots constantly intrude and distract. Astaire and Hayworth—not to mention the movie-buying public—deserve a lot better than this.

Image Transfer Grade: C


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original mono track exhibits only minor surface defects, most of which are deep in the background and require astute ears to detect. Dialogue is, for the most part, clean and comprehendible, while the music enjoys good fidelity (for a 62-year-old film), despite a prevalent tinny quality.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Japanese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Gilda, The Lady from Shanghai
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The film's original trailer (in horrendous condition) plus previews for Hayworth's iconic, career-defining Gilda and artsy noir thriller The Lady from Shanghai (with then hubby Orson Welles) comprise the supplemental offerings.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A flat story, weak songs and a disappointing transfer make You'll Never Get Rich a poor man's musical. Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth dance divinely, but their magical moments together are far too few to salvage this dated, flag-waving confection.


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