Assuming the ads are factual, Judge P.S. Colbert just experienced "A dazzling scintillating drama of unparalleled magnificence!"
A drama that froths, sparkles, startles, and electrifies with the follies of the smart set!
1900: Caroline Van Dyke, "the richest baby in the world," is born.
1920: Miss Van Dyke, now "the richest debutante in the world," becomes engaged to ambitious young stockbroker Greg Grannard.
1930: Mrs. Grannard (Ruth Chatterton, Madame X) is seen out having luncheon with that handsome young novelist, war correspondent, and eligible bachelor Julian Tierney (George Brent, Housewife). You don't suppose there could be trouble between the Grannards, do you?
These vital statistics are imparted within a minute and a half, through a series of blackouts, set amongst lady gossips in well-appointed parlor rooms, and meant to get us up to speed with extreme narrative economy. From there, The Rich Are Always With Us dispenses with frugality altogether. Staying in luxury and opulence, it dwells upon the love lives of the divorce-bound Grannards, the heartsick Tierney (who makes no secret of his desire to transform a platonic relationship with Caroline into a romantic one) and Caroline's best friend, the sexually frustrated Malbro (Bette Davis, Dangerous), who's just as blatant about her desire to trap and keep Tierney as her pet.
And that's pretty much that. The whole thing is played out in posh mansions, penthouse apartments, and ritzy night clubs, set to a brisk bouncy rhythm by director Alfred E. Green (Four Faces West) and deliciously framed by ace cinematographer Ernest Haller (an Oscar-winner for Gone With The Wind).
Working from Ethel Pettit's novel of the same name, the screen adaptation by Austin Parker (Three Smart Girls) works to spice up the admittedly trite proceedings with a droll conversational style that might charitably be called Oscar Milde. To wit…quot;Just last week she gave an enormous party—-you couldn't put your foot down without either stepping on a title or getting in a pail of champagne," Caroline confides to Malbro. "I've had three proposals during the last week; all of them from men too tired to work."
Everyone involved is so obscenely wealthy and so blasé about it, it's hard to believe there was a worldwide economic depression swirling all around them. Of course, that was very much a selling point for movie audiences of the time, eager to escape (even temporarily) from the bitter realities of soup lines, bank runs, Hoovervilles, and massive unemployment; with no end in sight. In essence, The Rich Are Always With Us is exactly the type of film Woody Allen so lovingly lampooned in his classic comedy The Purple Rose Of Cairo.
Warner Archive has remastered a 1.37:1 standard definition print with only trace amounts of wear and tear, and the 2.0 Mono audio track is likewise amazingly well-preserved. The sole extra included here is the film's original theatrical trailer which wasn't treated to a remastering, but is a treat nonetheless.
And as our current global economic situation worsens, one might give serious consideration to having The Rich Are Always With Us on hand for therapeutic purposes.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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