Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Rich Are Always With Us

TCM is honoring George Brent on his birth annivesary tomorrow. You could be forgiven for thinking they were honoring Bette Davis, since most of the movies on TCM's lineup tomorrow morning and afternoon star Davis, and there's even a TCM documentary about her rounding out the afternoon. But Davis didn't really become a star until Of Human Bondage in 1934, while Brent was a star before this. A good example of this is The Rich Are Always With Us, which kicks off tomorrow's birthday salute at 6:00 AM.

Brent plays Julian, an author who is in love with wealthy socialite Caroline (Ruth Chatterton, who gets top billing, which says something about the time the movie was made). It's an unrequited love, though, as Caroline is happily married to Greg (John Miljan). Meanwhile, there's a woman who has an unrequited love for Julian; that woman has the interesting name Malbro, and is played by Bette Davis, who is still billed aftre Brent. Now, you'd think that the obvious solution would be for Julian to suck it up and discover that perhaps Malbro might not be so bad for him. In that case, though, we wouldn't have much of a movie. Instead, we have to have something much more complicated even than a love triangle.

You see, it turns out that Greg is in love with another woman. Aha! We have another neat solution, which would involve Greg divorcing Caroline to marry Malbro, leaving Caroline and Julian free to marry each other. Alas, that too is not what's going on. Instead, Greg is in love with Alison (Adrienne Dore). When Caroline discovers this, she runs off to Paris to be officially separated from Greg so that she can obtain a divorce from him. Julian, for his part, follows Caroline to Paris to tell her that now she can get married to him.

Things go on like this for all of 70 minutes, but you're going to need a scorecard to keep up with what's going on. To top it all off, the movie has an ending which utterly defies belief. The movie certainly isn't boring for anybody who likes 80-year-old movies, but it does have an air about it that there's something not quite right with the plot. The one other thing of note is that it's got a scene of Brent lighting two cigarettes and giving one of them to Chatterton. That scene was very similarly done 10 years later with Paul Henried and Bette Davis in Now, Voyager.

The Rich Are Always With Us has received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive. But that also means the DVD is a bit on the overpriced side. You may want to catch tomorrow's airing first to decide whether you'd want ot drop money on a DVD. (Personally, I think Warner Home Video ought to do a Davis pre-Code boxset and include this.)

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