Jan 27, 2012

CMBA Comedy Classics Blogathon: "The Richest Girl in the World"

First thing about the film I selected for this blogathon: I had seen it like two years ago. I remember I enjoyed it very much, but two years ago I had barely seen classic comedies, therefore my mental map has changed since then.

Was it as good as I remembered it? Let's see.

The Richest Girl in the World (1934) is about the richest girl in the world. Seriously. As we all know normal rich people have a lot of problems to deal with, like losing kids inside their mansions, having to assist to dreaful ceremonies and parties, not knowing what to buy next, not knowing what kid to adopt next, etc. But they also have sentimental problems. Especially if you're Miriam Hopkins, the RICHEST girl in the world.

Miriam founds herself continually asking: this guy that says he loves me, is in love with me or with my money? So after her honest fiancé says he won't marry her because he's in love with another girl, Miriam starts thinking. She also sees her dear secretary Fay Wray deeply in love with her husband and she wants something like that for herself.

For security reasons she's pretending to be her secretary, while her secretary pretends to be her. In that situation she meets Joel McCrea, an impossibly tall, tanned, athletic, handsome, cute guy, who says he couldn't care less about the RICHEST girl in the world. Hope is born in Miriam's heart. And a kitten just died because that last cliché. Well, Miriam will prove Joel's will by throwing the fake richest girl in the world in his face.

One of the things I like about this film is how writer Norman Krasna gave a little background and humanized the character of the girl with a lot of money. First, we learn that her parents died in the Titanic (no, her dad wasn't Leo DiCaprio) and that a good ol' man took care of her (one of the bests scenes is when Henry Stephenson, the protector, tells this story). Then we learn that she's practical, not spoiled, that she's a good friend, doesn't have a lot of clothes and has a good humor. So you root for her.

I also like the way Miriam Hopkins acts...most of the time. She gives naturalness to her character and a playful presence. The are few secondary characters, but they make a good group: Fay Wray being always supportive, her husband (Reginald Denny) being a good sport about the whole incognito deal, and the mentioned Henry Stephenson, also very effective and funny. 

The negative side: in a movie that was in this "humanized" trail, some scenes are out of place. For example, in a moment of anger, Miriam goes after Joel and her secretary/fake rich girl that were in a canoe. With her motorboat she makes the little canoe overturn. That would work in a normal screwball comedy, but not in this one. There are other scenes in which she drinks with Joel that were a bit repetitive, long and didn't add much to the story. Maybe this would have been less notorious if the movie had some kind of music, but it just have two songs in dance scenes. And, in my very humble opinion, Joel is very handsome and all but he's very wooden as actor. Except for a few moments.

Anyway, Norman Krasna got an Oscar nomination for Best Original Story. He was 22. He says he attended to the ceremony with Groucho Marx and his first wife, Ruth. Norman didn't win and got drunk. Suddenly he rises and shouts "Everybody!". Silence. Then he invited everyone to his place, even when she just had a can of sardines at home. Groucho had to take him home. 

Closing lines. Maybe this one is not really a HA-HA film, but is very enjoyable little comedy anyway. The end :)

Written for the CMBA Comedy Classics Blogathon.


  1. I'm not a big fan of Miriam Hopkins--I always root for her rival in any film, LOL! But I have heard good things about this film, so I might give it a look.

  2. I haven't seen this Hopkins picture (surprisingly, I've missed out on several of the films in the Comedy Classics Blogathon). The plot sounds a bit tired, but perhaps it wasn't when the movie was made. I enjoyed the interesting trivia about Krasna's reaction at the Oscars. Hey, if I'd been nominated at 22, I would've felt pretty good about it. (OK, if I was ever nominated, I'd feel awesome....)

  3. Yet another film I haven't seen - but I sure like early 1930s Miriam. Sometime after the mid 1930s the sauciness turned to bitchiness, but this sounds like one of her cute performances. She had something unique. Thanks for highlighting this film - I'll be looking for it!

  4. I'm going to have to check this out to complete the Miriam Hopkins/Joel McCrea movies. They are at their romantic best in "Barbary Coast" and sharing the spotlight with Merle Oberon in "These Three". "Woman Chases Man" is a cute, fast-paced comedy.

  5. Clara, an unusual choice for the blogathon. I sense that you had some reservations about the film, and I wasn't overly thrilled with it myself when I saw it not long ago. The plot sounded good but in actuality was a bit too contrived and tedious to be completely effective. But as you point out, Krasna was very young when he wrote it and would go on to polish his comedy writing skills in later films, especially "Bachelor Mother," one of the great neglected screwball comedies. I did like Miriam Hopkins, though, who seemed to be on a real roll about this time and in this film was sympathetic in a way she generally wasn't later on. After seeing this, I could understand why she was one of the first considered for the heiress in "It Happened One Night," a role that was turned down by just about every comedy actress in Hollywood (including Hopkins) before Claudette Colbert accepted it.

  6. Interesting choice for the blogathon, Clara. Even in a film like These Three (where she admittedly did a great job as a self-sacrificing woman), I always envision Hopkins as the type who would quite happily brain her romantic rival with a baseball the minute the leading man's back was turned. So I have no problem imagining her overturning a canoe. Although I can't agree with your comments on Joel Crea. That's just crazy talk. ;)

  7. I really enjoyed reaing your review on this is a charming, some times racy little film. Miriam Hopkins, is very good as Miss Dorothy Hunter. Miriam Hopkins, works very well with Joel McCrea, who is very believable as a average guy.

  8. I'll have to look for this one. Despite its shortcomings, it sounds like something I would enjoy, especially since Hopkins was establishing her star at this point and was magnetic.



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