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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » We're Going To Be Rich (Fox Cinema Archives)
We're Going To Be Rich (Fox Cinema Archives)
Fox Cinema Archives // Unrated // November 5, 2014
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted January 3, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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Just when she sings...she's "Our Gracie." 20th Century-Fox's Cinema Archives line of hard-to-find library and cult titles has released We're Going To Be Rich, the 1938 musical drama from Fox, starring their newest acquisition, British singing star Gracie Fields. Co-starring Victor McLaglen, Brian Donlevy, Coral Browne, Ted Smith, Gus McNaughton, and Charles Carson, We're Going To Be Rich is pretty stale lunch...but it perks up any time Fields warbles in that distinctive way of hers. No extras for this okay fullscreen black and white transfer.

Melbourne, Australia, the late 1880s. Singer Kit Dobson (Gracie Fields), the "Lancashire Lark," is closing out a socko run at the Scala Theater, with plenty of coins in her poke to take her, her husband "Dobbie" Dobson (Victor McLaglen), and her nephew Tim (Ted Smith), back to native England, to a proper house, where Tim can benefit from a structured home life. There's only one problem: Dobbie never met a get-rich scheme he didn't fall for, and sure enough, on the boat to England, he breaks the news to Kit that they won't be going any farther than Cape Town, South Africa. Kit can't believe that Dobbie has done this to her once again; this time, it's a half-share in a Johannesburg gold mine. Of course it turns out to be a scam...which triggers a massive fistfight that lands Dobbie in the clink for six weeks. On her own and with no money, the spunky Kit does what she always does and soldiers on: she makes her way to the swank Aurora saloon, where she convinces tough-guy owner Yankee Gordon (Brian Donlevy) to give her a chance to audition. Winning over the rowdy crowd with her humorous songs and warm personality, Kit scores a life-saving gig--which puts her on the outs with Pearl (Coral Browne), the singer (and one presumes, lover) whom Yankee boots in favor of Kit. Soon, Yankee is favoring Kit in other ways, buying her and Tim gifts, making his feelings about her quite clear. Naturally, Dobbie isn't happy hearing this news when he's eventually released, but Kit defends Yankee as a friend. A drunken, ultimately innocent dalliance with Pearl earns Dobbie a one-way ticket out of his marriage to the humiliated Kit, but events--including Dobbie becoming a prize fighter--conspire to bring the couple back together.

Until I watched We're Going To Be Rich, I'm fairly certain I had never seen British superstar Gracie Fields in anything. Of course I knew about her, though, from my various readings over the years (one of David Niven's best anecdotes referenced her: speaking to Prince Rainier, when asked by Grace Kelly's husband what star Niven enjoyed sleeping with the most, Niven answered without thinking, "Gracie," before quickly adding, "Gracie Fields,"). However, I can't imagine her pre-war British movies were, or are, all that readily available here in the States. When she was signed by Fox for four movies (to be shot in England), she was according to reports the most popular female entertainer in Britain. However, some bad timing with her health (at the peak of her popularity, illness forced her to lay low in Capri), with her personal life (marrying the Italian-born director of We're Going To Be Rich, Monty Banks, made it necessary for her to skip out of England during the hostilities--lest he be interned), and with that peculiar British attitude of the populace not liking their celebrities to "make it" over in Hollywood, all combined to deflate Fields' subsequent entertainment career. She eventually became a "beloved" entertainment figure in England, nostalgically representing a by-gone era...but she never climbed back up to the top of her field after the war.

Watching We're Going To Be Rich, though, it's not hard to see why she never "made it" in Hollywood. Not possessing great beauty was certainly a challenge for a female Hollywood lead actor at that time...but not necessarily an insurmountable one (the great Depression-era star Marie Dressler is a good example). Indeed, according to what I've read, Fields' homey homeliness was integral to her appeal with the British masses, who viewed her less-than-glamorous visage as further proof she was "one of them" (when I first saw her Harpo Marx-like caricature on the one-sheet poster art, I thought it unkind...but unfortunately it's fairly accurate). However, after watching her sing several numbers in We're Going To Be Rich, it's clear she would always be--at least in the way Hollywood musicals were designed at that time--better utilized as a supporting, "featured" specialty performer, rather than as a romantic musical lead, headlining her own movies (like Betty Grable or Alice Faye). When Fields sings the slightly bawdy, Walter, Walter! ("My bottom drawer is packed and ready!"), in that funny, flat, howling manner of hers, she's completely winning--a British musical hall comedian with a set of pipes that can be either touchingly, sentimentally sweet...or hilariously fog-horned. It's when she's asked to play straight dramatic scenes that her appeal wanes.

Granted, she has little (if anything) to work with in Sam Hellman's (Little Miss Marker, My Darling Clementine) and Rohama Siegel's script. To describe We're Going To Be Rich's romantic triangle plotline as "hackneyed" is to be kind, considering how drearily predictable it all is, from hothead McLaglen's naughty puppy dog/bull in a china shop irresponsibility, and plucky Fields' weary roll-up-your-sleeves fortitude, to Donlevy's by-the-numbers (and strangely antiseptic) wooing of Fields, and his gentlemanly rejection of her in order to steer her back to McLaglan--because those two kids deserve to be together, ee by gum. Soon to be Mr. Gracie Fields, Monty Banks directs in a glum tone (he only seems to come alive during the final fight scene), but then again, what can he do, as well, with a storyline as banal and trite as this one? Very early on in We're Going To Be Rich, it becomes readily apparent that this misguided musical "Western" is only going to be of interest in documenting Fields' delightful song numbers, of which there are more than a few...but then again not nearly enough to squeeze out the subpar dramatics in this seemingly interminable 80-minute drama.

The Video:
The fullscreen, 1.37:1 black and white transfer for We're Going To Be Rich is okay, with the expected level of screen anomalies, a decent-enough contrast level, and no compression issues to speak of here.

The Audio:
The Dolby Digital English mono audio track is a bit squelchy at times, but nothing out of the ordinary for these older transfers.

The Extras:
No extras for We're Going To Be Rich.

Final Thoughts:
You're Going To Be Bored. I was glad to finally see the legendary Gracie Fields in her "Hollywood" debut...but Grable or Faye she ain't. Forced into a romantic leading mold that doesn't suit her (and one that nobody really seems to buy, either, from the director to the hesitant male co-stars), Fields' considerable charms are only utilized in her fun, winning musical numbers. Too bad there's more talk than song here.... A rental for We're Going To Be Rich, if you're curious to see Fields.

Paul Mavis is an internationally published movie and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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