Brewster’s Millions (1945)

15 02 2010

The second full feature I’ve seen from Allan Dwan (in addition to his Director’s Playhouse episode, High Air) is another home run. I couldn’t really argue that it is anything unique or that Dwan himself did anything to make this particular film special, but it definitely has an in-explainable and irresistible charm. It’s pretty much an eighty minute long joke (not in the negative sense) that is more silly than it is hilarious, and it all adds up to a punchline sure to give many a smirk. Nothing overwhelming, really, but its the sort of fast-paced, easy going comedy that just hits me in the right way at the right time.

Monty Brewster returns from his military service with one thing on his mind: marrying his sweetheart, Peggy. His pals from his time overseas accompany him to the big “welcome home” party. Soon after, it is revealed that Monty may inherit up to a million dollars from an uncle. It’s not a hoax, but he can only inherit the will, which he is secretly told to be 8 million dollars if he can spend 1 million dollars by the time he reaches the age of 30. There’s only one problem: he turns 30 in two months. The will checks out completely, not only must Monty spend the 1 million, but he must also do so without revealing to anyone why he is doing so. Oh, and he can’t just give it away to charity.

Brewster meticulously maps out a way to get rid of the million within two months, but from the perspective of his family and friends, he is simply going insane. He buys extravagant amount of stock in unlikely places and places a bet on an equally unlucky horse. However, these attempts at throwing the money away backfire and he soon begins a luck streak – at least that’s how the rest of the world sees it. For Monty, it is the epitome of unluckiness.

I will admit right off the bat that this movie does have its fair share of “hijinx” which is usually something I associate with cartoony, old-time comedies that most often rub me the wrong way. The humor here might be pedestrian, it’s snappy, witty dialogue that isn’t going to force anyone to hit the pause button from extensive laughing, it is most likely just going to force a smile. It’s a silly movie, which is something that I cannot stress enough, but it takes pride in this fact and doesn’t try to slip into an unnecessary “serious” tone.

Take for example, any “screwball comedy” which usually depends on the audience’s ability to imagine that two people can be so completely different and fight to no ends but still somehow, love each other. While I am fond of many directors that dabbled in this genre, I find it a bit too old-fashioned and a bit too hard to believe. Here, though, Monty and Peggy’s relationship is only problematic because of a single legal stipulation.  I’m never for a film explaining/fixing things so easily and quickly as Dwan does here, but it is a special situation.

It’s something that we are aware of, thus no tricks are being pulled and it’s a secret we are desperate to announce. Peggy and Monty’s relationship can really just “pick back up again” because it never really changed. Sure, down the road she may have to ask him if the other women that were involved in his endeavors meant anything, but a minor quibble is the most that will produce, and it’s something that is too lowkey for Dwan to even bother photographing. Many talk about the resourceful and minimalism of cinema’s genre giants during the 30s to 50s, but they usually are referring to noirs and westerns, but the tight, rapid-fire pace of this gem is evident that Dwan could do the same for comedy.



3 responses

15 02 2010
Allison Almodovar

Allan Dwan is great and directed my favorite silent film, MANHANDLED (1924) starring Gloria Swanson. I hope you get a chance to discover more of his work. However, he is very prolific and not all his films are stellar. Most I have seen by him are, though.

28 06 2010
George Bennett

Js this film available on DVD ?

Brewster’s Millions 1945 version

10 04 2011

Unfortunately not, only as VHS. I wish they would make such movies available for download!
I’d be willing to pay a little for this.

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