As with You Were Never Lovelier, You'll Never Get Rich is more about the dancing than the plot, and thank heaven the dance numbers are so spectacular, or no one would ever watch this film. Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth have exceptional rapport in all their interactions, but it's not always enough to make up for a rather ridiculous and very padded script.
Much of the humor is supposed to come from Robert Benchley. In total honesty, none of us are fans - by and large, he is an annoyance; in this film, his annoyance factor is redoubled. Why Robert would even associate with this man is beyond comprehension. Martin is a liar and a cheat; he is constantly unfaithful and downright nasty to his wife; and verges on sexually abuse in his pursuit of women. We didn't understand why Julia would stay with him, but she has the excuse of a marriage contract. Robert does not seem to have any tie to Martin. You would think he would run for the hills.
When he does run, it's not from Martin, but from Sheila (Martin has told Julia and Sheila that Robert is in love with Sheila and wants to marry her). He ends up in the Army. Fred Astaire makes a most unlikely soldier. Never mind the fact that he is underweight (in one of the somewhat humorous incidents, he puts a five pound weight in his hat so he passes the physical), he's also too old to be in the draft. Once in the service - which he worked so hard to achieve - he is constantly disobedient. He even puts on an officer's uniform - a court martial offense that the film treats as a lark. Released on September 25, 1941, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Army that Robert enters is a peacetime one (the draft had been reinstated in 1940). In a scant 42 days, these funny soldiers will be going off to possibly die in Europe and in the Pacific. In retrospect, the prospects for these men is not particularly comical. it's unlikely this film would have passed muster after December 7th.
Add Osa Massen (Sonya) and Cliff Nazarro (Swivel Tongue) to Mr. Benchley and you have a trio of actors you would rather were somewhere else. Mr. Nazarro's line of double-talk rapidly gets wearing, and as we mentioned when we discussed Honeymoon for Three, Ms. Massen isn't the world's greatest actress. (I'll acknowledge that she had some good moments - she's pretty good in A Woman's Face, but the part is blessedly small, and she's supposed to be annoying in that film).
Frieda Inescort is a plus, but she's seen so rarely - and always with Benchley - that she is wasted. Ms. Inescort started her acting career on Broadway in 1922, after working in England as a journalist and a private secretary. Over the course of her career (between 1922 and 1948), she would appear in 20 plays, including When Ladies Meet (in the part that would go to Myrna Loy in 1933 and Joan Crawford in 1941). Her film career began in 1935; she'd primarily play wives and "other women", like her role as Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice (1940). She also began appearing on television in the 1950s, with roles in The Loretta Young Show, December Bride, and Bourbon Street Beat. Married for 35 years to Ben Ray Redman, she survived him by 15 years, dying of multiple sclerosis in 1976 at the age of 74.
Rita Hayworth's singing is again dubbed, this time by Martha Tilton who has an unbilled part in the film (AFI Catalog). Fred Astaire dances while in jail with Chico Hamilton and the Delta Rhythm Boys in a brig that is apparently not segregated! (TCM article).
Originally called He's My Uncle, Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye" (also nominated was the score by Morris Stoloff).he title of the film comes from the 1917 song "You're in the Army Now," though the song is not used in the film. Then again, the songs that we have were written by Cole Porter - who received an Oscar nomination for "
New York Times
Fred and Rita dancing to "So Near and Yet So Far":