Geoffrey Colt-Stratton, Jr. (Ramsey Hill) is struggling, like many Americans, after the stock market crash of 1929. He and his family, formerly quite wealthy, have had to take on odd jobs. His daughter Linda (Sidney Fox) works as a shop girl, his wife (Marjorie Gateson) as an elevator operator, and he works in construction. They all bike to work, no longer able to afford a car.
The one final token of their former life is their yacht. There’s no captain for it, but it’s still in working order. One day, Nella Fitzgerald (Polly Moran) approaches the family and suggests that they rent out their yacht to the new money folks who have found ways to keep the dough rolling in despite the crash. The Colt-Strattons’ former cook, one of these “nouveaux riches,” is married to a racketeer.
Geoffrey is offended by Nella’s offer to help the family make money off of their yacht, but Linda and the Mrs. think it’s a much better idea than working themselves to the bone every day. Society’s tables are turned when the Colt-Strattons’ blue-blooded friends are hired to work the cruise, serving gamblers, gangsters, and those who used to work for the wealthy.
Paul Sloane directs 1934’s Down to Their Last Yacht (with some uncredited help from Sam White and producer Lou Brock). This musical was scripted by Marion Dix and Lynn Starling.
The film begins nicely, the Colt-Stratton’s shown at their respective jobs before Nella visits their yacht to make them an offer. As the cruise kicks off, the film’s “social register vs. cash register” dichotomy is quite cleverly portrayed, and there’s a fun song about how the world has gone topsy-turvy following the stock market crash. Linda strikes up a little romance with new money man, making for a class-swapped version of what their romance would have been, had her family remained wealthy.
But things get weird about half-way through the film, which is very brief as it is, running just about 64 minutes in total. The cruise runs aground on an island where all the locals care about is love. They’re so in love with love, in fact, that a random high-society white woman has been able to crown herself queen without a single side-eyed glance from the islanders. Messy “jokes” about the passengers expecting to meet a “Zulu” queen and a ridiculous love triangle take over the film, much to its detriment. What was once a humorous take on a changing society becomes a silly story told in a dull fashion.
Since it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a romantic island adventure or a big city societal critique, I can’t say I’d recommend Down to Their Last Yacht. Both halves of the film have the potential to be decent little musical pictures, but mashed together in this way, and without a stronger script, they just don’t work.