Martin Cortland (Robert Benchley) is a womanizing theater owner whose latest quest is to woo beautiful dancer Sheila Winthrop (Rita Hayworth). He enlists the help of the theater’s manager, Robert Curtis (Fred Astaire).
In order to keep his home life happy while he’s chasing other women, Martin buys gifts for both Sheila and his wife, Julia (Frieda Inescort). For Sheila, a diamond bracelet; for Julia, a back-scratcher.
Julia has long suspected that her husband is untrue, but her suspicions become solidified when she finds the diamond bracelet in his jacket. In an attempt to cover himself, Martin says that it was Robert who bought the bracelet for Sheila, and sets out to prove to his wife that this is true.
Robert and Sheila are truly attracted to each other, but with Martin constantly bringing Robert into his marital problems, it’s impossible for them to be together. (One must wonder – why didn’t everyone just ditch Martin a long time ago?)
Soon, Robert gets drafted into the Army, where he often finds himself in trouble but makes a few good friends who are always willing to help him. When Sheila shows up at the Army base to visit a family friend, she and Robert reconnect, but not before a slew of other problems try to get in their way.
Sidney Lanfield directs You’ll Never Get Rich, a wartime musical comedy from Columbia Pictures. This film provided Rita with one of her first big roles, and also features songs by the great Cole Porter.
Interesting credits are a great way to draw the viewer in, and You’ll Never Get Rich makes the most of this tactic. Rather than simple title cards, the film eye-catchingly opens with the credits displayed on roadside billboards and street signs.
The script is solid but a bit predictable, seeming like a never-ending string of losing women and then trying to steal them back. It does a pretty good job of keeping the viewer’s attention after the credits roll, despite its predictability. Even though it doesn’t pack many surprises, the captivating dance numbers featuring Hayworth and Astaire, the use of fun techniques (such as a silent film-style dream sequence from Astaire’s character), lovely music (favorites: “Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye,” “So Near and Yet So Far”) and a plethora of subplots keep the viewer occupied.
Hayworth and Astaire may be magnetic, but two of the film’s lesser-known performers, Benchley and Inescort, steal the show. As man and wife stuck in a tense, infidelity-plagued marriage, they provide both a bit of drama and a whole lot of humor (through their witty rivalry) to the story.
Though the film’s premise seems focused on the somewhat sleazy nature of the theater world, You’ll Never Get Rich is more of a sweet romance between a soldier and a showgirl than a straight-up showbiz movie. With its ultra-cutesy ending, nice music and good performances, the film is well-suited to fans of conventional romantic musicals. The score: 3/5