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The 1945 comedy Brewster's Millions, directed by Allan Dwan and distributed by United Artists, was already the fifth screen adaptation of the popular story, which began as a 1902 novel by George Barr McCutcheon and a 1906 play by Winchell Smith and Byron Ongley.
Other editions of this tale over the years include a 1914 version co-directed by Cecil B. De Mille (his first-ever directing credit), a 1921 Famous Players-Lasky version starring Fatty Arbuckle, a 1926 Paramount version entitled Miss Brewster's Millions starring Bebe Daniels and Warner Baxter, a 1935 British version starring Jack Buchanan, another British version in 1961 called Three on a Spree, and a 1985 Universal version starring Richard Pryor and John Candy. (Clearly we're due for yet another.)
The cause of all the fuss through the decades is simply a winning story that always seems to delight audiences. Director Allan Dwan himself called Brewster's Millions "one of the best pieces of material I ever had. The idea that a man - without being able to tell a living soul anything about it - has to spend a million dollars in a year and have absolutely nothing to show for it when he's done. And if he does it, he gets another seven million from his uncle's will. Now that sounds like the most simple thing on earth - I know it can be done - I've done it - but, you see, he had to legitimately spend that money and then have nothing to show for it - which is what's tough." (Peter Bogdanovich, Allan Dwan, The Last Pioneer)
Enacting this comic story in probably the best film version is an enjoyable cast led by Dennis O'Keefe and including Helen Walker, June Havoc, Gail Patrick and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. Anderson's role created some problems in Tennessee. The Memphis film censorship board felt that the black actor's character had "too familiar a way about him" and that the movie overall depicted "too much social equality and racial mixture" for Tennessee audiences to handle.
Brewster's Millions received an Academy Award® nomination for Louis Forbes' musical score, though it should be noted there were a whopping 20 other nominees that year. The winner was Miklos Rozsa for Spellbound (1945).
The New York Times received the movie well, musing "there is something about this silly story that neither age doth wither nor custom stale. No doubt it's the fascinating business of throwing money away."
Producer: Edward Small
Director: Allan Dwan
Screenplay: Siegfried Herzig, Wilkie Mahoney, Charles Rodgers; Byron Ongley, Winchell Smith (play); George Barr McCutcheon (novel)
Cinematography: Charles Lawton
Art Direction: Joseph Sternad
Film Editing: Richard Heermance
Cast: Dennis O'Keefe (Monty Brewster), Helen Walker (Peggy Gray), June Havoc (Trixie Summers), Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson (Jackson), Gail Patrick (Barbara Drew), Mischa Auer (Michael Michaelovich), Nana Bryant (Mrs. Gray), John Litel (Swearengen Jones), Joe Sawyer (Hacky Smith), Neil Hamilton (Mr. Grant), Herbert Rudley (Nopper Harrison), Thurston Hall (Col. Drew).
by Jeremy Arnold