Monday, November 8, 2010

We're Rich Again

Tomorrow marks the birth anniversary of Edna May Oliver, and TCM is marking the occasion with a day of her movies. I mentioned The Penguin Pool Murder back in September; that's airing at noon ET. The other of her Hildegarde Withers mysteries, Murder at the Blackboard, also shows up, at 2:30 PM. One of Oliver's movies that I haven't mentioned before is a bizarre little B comedy that winds up being so bizarre it's fun: the 1934 film We're Rich Again, at 3:45 PM.

Oliver gets top billing, although she's not really the main character. That honor goes to character actor Grant Mitchell, playing Wilbur Page, the patriarch of a family that would like to be middle class, but is unfortunately drowning in a sea of debt. He wants to marry his daughter off to the son of a wealthy family, but can't really afford the wedding thanks to that debt. In fact, the process servers are on his doorstep, in the form of Edgar Kennedy. Billie Burke, seemingly reprising her role from Dinner at Eight, plays the mother, and she's about as ditzy and oblivious to reality here as she was in the earlier movie.

Into all of this mess walk several characters. First is the aforementioned Oliver, who is Burke's mother. She's a polo-playing granny, and is constantly surrounded by young men in polo shirts that are just a bit too tight. You'd think that if she could afford to play polo, she'd have the money to help out her son-in-law, but apparently not. Then there's "country cousin" Marian Nixon, whose presence serves as little more than adding more mayhem to poor Grant Mitchell's life. Perhaps funniest of all, however, is Buster Crabbe. The former Olympic swimmer turned actor shows up in just is Olympic swimming trunks, and his presence is a running joke that involves him never more dressed than his swim trunks, including taking a trip to Mexico and getting involved in two weddings. On top of that, he never gets a line of dialogue. He just shows up, and who knows why he's there. Eventually, Father's financial problems get solved somehow, and almost everybody presumably gets to live happily ever after, although that's kind of beside the point.

We're Rich Again is the sort of movie that I probably shouldn't like. Grant Mitchell's character goes around creating an ever more elaborate set of lies in order to keep the process server at bay, and that sort of comedy-by-lies is something I generally dislike. But We're Rich Again is warped, thanks to the presence of Oliver, Crabbe, and Burke. There's a "what were they thinking" vibe that permeates the movie, and thanks the the presence of people who could actually do comedy well, the movie winds up being interestingly bizarre, as opposed to a lousy bizarre. Unsurprisingly, because it's a B movie with no real stars, We're Rich Again hasn't been released to DVD.

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