Brewster’s Millions (1944) – reviewed by George

Dennis O’Keefe is Monty Brewster, returning from World War II with two buddies and putting them up in his fiancee’s house in New York. Helen Walker plays his fiancee and Spring Byington is her mother, who really dotes on Monty (lucky for him). As the three friends settle into civilian life, and develop their ideas for a business they can run together, Monty gets a visit from an attorney representing his uncle, who has died and left Monty eight million dollars, on the condition that he spend one million of it in just 60 days, with absolutely nothing to show for it. Any assets from the million count against him and void the inheritance. If he succeeds the remaining 7 million will be his. Simple? Maybe, but he can’t tell anyone what he’s doing or why, or even anything more than the fact that he has one million bucks. Which the friends expect will be the nest egg to start their business.

With two good buddies and a girlfriend trying (and frequently succeeding) to keep Monty from making bad investments, it’s never been harder to unload a million. Especially because his friends all conclude that he’s crazy, and that makes them try even harder to protect him. So how does he try to do this? One plan is to back a Broadway show so bad that there is no chance of a return (“The Producers”, anyone?). Funding less-than-sensible inventions is another.

Dennis O’Keefe was a versatile actor comfortable in comedies (“Getting Gertie’s Garter”, “Up in Mabel’s Room”, and this one), noir (a cop in “T-Men”, a psychopath in “Raw Deal”), lighter drama (“The Great Dan Patch”), even horror (“Leopard Man”). His performance in this picture is extra-impressive because of the speed with which he has to deliver his lines and the general overall hyper quality of the character Monty. There are also some really good comedy bits, like the scene with a telephone operator. In the 40s you had to pick up the receiver, wait for the operator to say, “Number, please”, and then give her the number of the person you wanted to reach. Very funny. I also liked Spring Byington in full flightiness, telling Monty, “Why shouldn’t you have a millions dollars? You’ve always been a nice boy. Why shouldn’t you have a million dollars?” No argument from Monty – or from me.

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