Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ruth and Bette Love George

We are present at the birth of a baby girl - we are told she will be the richest woman in America when she grows up.  Thus begins The Rich are Always with Us (1932), starring Ruth Chatterton as Caroline Grannard, that now all-grown-up baby.

Caroline is married to Greg Grannard (John Miljan), but is also loved by Julian Tierney (George Brent).  Though Julian wants her to divorce Greg (he suspects Greg is not faithful), Caroline loves Greg, and refuses to leave him.  However, she quickly discovers that Julian is right, her husband has become enamored of Alison Adair  (Adrienne Dore), and Greg wants a divorce.

Thus begins the quest of Caroline and Julian to find one another.  Though the plot seems fairly standard, the film is really quite intelligent and well done, as well as being a lot of fun.  Ruth Chatterton is always excellent, and here she gives some real depth to Caroline.  It's interesting that before we even meet her, we are told of Caroline's immense wealth. 

Especially since her money plays no real part in her as a character.  Are we being told this to make us expect a different person? Someone not particularly nice?  Caroline, however,  is a good, kind person; the men with whom she is involved are financially well-off; we are never led to assume she was married for her money.  The film really could be about any woman whose life is thrown into turmoil by an unfaithful partner.  The title perhaps, refers more to a woman who is rich in goodness, rather than in money.  
In her 9th film (and her 2nd year in Hollywood), Bette Davis appears in a supporting part as Caroline's friend Malbro.  Davis is truly at her loveliest; here she appears, as she did in many of her earliest films, as a blonde and it is really quite becoming.  Malbro is in love with Julian, but she is also close friends with Caroline, which presents her with a real problem.  As you watch the film, you wonder if she will betray her friend in her pursuit of Julian.

Julian, as portrayed by George Brent, is a great guy with a lot of patience.  In a sense, Brent doesn't have a lot to do but be long-suffering, but one of his powers as an actor is that he can always get you involved with him, without detracting from the rest of the action.    

If Malbro is our example of the  good friend, then Alison the exact opposite.  As portrayed by Adrienne Dore, Alison  is a piece of work; nasty, conniving and a liar to boot.  Despite the fact that she is treated well by Caroline's friend, we begin to see that they don't really like or trust her.  The relation between John and Alison reminded us of The Women, which we discussed some time ago.  Watch for the scene, late in the movie where she is spying on Caroline. 

We had seen Dore before, playing Tony in Famous Ferguson Case.  There doesn't seem to be a lot of information about her.  She had a very brief career  - she made 12 films between 1929 and 1933, and was in the Miss American pageant for 1925.  You can view a brief bio at the Allure blog.  You can also see her in this clip, which features appearances by all of our main characters:

Finally, the film, in portraying the wealthy, again treats us to great clothing and great home furnishings.  Long Island appears as the playground of the rich. We will leave you with the trailer to this film.  We heartily suggest you to give The Rich are Always With Us a viewing.

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