You'll Never Get Rich
"Don't get your hopes up, dear," confides a randomly pretty showgirl to Sheila Winthrop, "because for eight hours a day, Mr. Curtis is up to his hips in beautiful girls, and we all look alike to him." That's a laugh. Though the dapper Robert Curtis (Fred Astaire) might be accustomed to common beauty, it's unlikely that he's ever come across a specimen as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as Ms. Winthrop, particularly since she's played by none other than Rita Hayworth. The first of two pairings featuring Columbia's new arrival (Astaire) and studio chief Harry Cohn's coveted Latina bombshell, You'll Never Get Rich (1941) is a good-natured, World War II-era musical enlivened by some terrific Cole Porter songs and typically breathtaking dancing from the greatest hoofer in the history of film. The story is a nonsensical trifle in which Curtis is forced to cover for his unscrupulous boss, Martin Cortland (Robert Benchley), when his wife becomes suspicious of his affections for the young Ms. Winthrop. To throw her off the track, Curtis feigns affection for Sheila, which are genuinely mutual, though complicated since Sheila is also seeing an Army captain. When she realizes that Curtis is putting on an act (which becomes less of an act as he spends more time with her), Sheila and her boyfriend scare him off. Flummoxed by the whole ordeal, Curtis decides to flee his troubles by joining the Army, which doesn't quite work out as planned, as he butts heads with a blustery drill sergeant, and, of course, encounters Sheila's boyfriend, who's nothing less than accommodating as Curtis tries to woo away his fiancée. It all gets terribly convoluted once Cortland inexplicably shows up, at which point the film abruptly enters into the "Let's put on a show!" genre, culminating in a final number that finds the scheming Curtis attempting to surreptitiously marry Sheila. Directed competently by Sidney Lanfield, You'll Never Get Rich is a little light on dance numbers, though when they do pop up they're pretty fantastic. Hayworth might not be Ginger Rogers, but she ably goes step-for-step with Astaire, their highlight being "So Near and Yet So Far." Still, Astaire is even better when he goes solo on "Shootin' the Works for Uncle Sam" and, best of all, the guardhouse tap number "Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye." "Elegance" and "grace" are understatements; many words have been spent in the service of praising Astaire's light but masculine touch, and they are all insufficient. It should be noted that the comedy is sometimes labored, with Cliff Nazarro's one-note mumbling shtick proving particularly grating. The wartime film is also peculiar for its frivolous depiction of a goldbricking private, Curtis, trying to steal away the girlfriend of a distinguished and seemingly decent ranking officer. One can't help but wonder how this was received by enlisted men worrying about their wives' fidelity as they shipped off to face potential death. It certainly makes the movie something of an anomaly among other pictures of the day. Columbia TriStar presents You'll Never Get Rich in a solid full-screen transfer (1.33:1) with monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Extras are limited to a few theatrical trailers for other Rita Hayworth releases. Keep-case.