Cast & Crew
Joe, a poet and "self-appointed bum" who cannot afford to pay his rent, goes into business as a "heavenly psychologist," selling his interpretation of his clients' innermost dreams as he reads them in their eyes. Joe discovers his unusual gift when he looks into a mirror and sees an image of his long-lost love in his eyes. The discovery leads him to suppose that just as a visual image can be preserved on film, so can a dream be retained in the eyes of the dreamer. The images contained in a person's brain, Joe believes, are "photographed by the retina and held suspended in its memory." Joe's first client is Mr. A, a meek bank clerk whose shrewish wife complains that he has a "mind like a double entry column." Mrs. A complains that her husband makes too little money and wants Joe to find a dream in him that will make him more successful and a better lover. After excusing the man's wife, Joe looks into Mr. A's eyes and sees his dream: A beautiful woman lies asleep in her bed with a small ball suspended in the air above her mouth. The woman's lover listens to her talk in her sleep, and shipwrecked bodies are pulled from under her bed one after another. Awakened by her lover, the woman ceases to dream her own dream and instead adopts the dream of ecstasy that both she and her lover share. Their dream is witnessed by an older man who is seen rolling dice. After Joe is finished examining Mr. A's dream he accepts a check for fifty dollars as payment for his services. Joe's next client is a young woman who has an obsession with organization and who is a compulsive collector of signatures. After placating the woman and signing her petition, Joe peers into her eyes to examine her dreams and sees a room filled with broken mannequins. The mannequins re-assemble themselves and begin dancing in preparation for love. Two of the mannequins begin a courtship ritual which ends when a wall crumbles and the bride-to-be ruins her wedding gown. Joe's third client is Mrs. A., who has come to him seeking her lost youth. She is deeply confused and is too afraid to improve her dull life. The next client, a gangster, wants nothing more from Joe than a dream interpretation that contains the name of the next winning derby horse. In the gangster's eyes, Joe sees many nude figures descending a staircase. The session ends in violence, however, when the gangster knocks Joe unconscious and places him in a closet. After the gangster leaves, a little girl and her blind grandfather enter Joe's office. While waiting for Joe, the little girl plays with a ball, which transforms itself into a dream about mobiles. The blind grandfather is the sixth dreamer, and he dreams of circus figures that come to life. Joe's last client is himself. Looking at his reflection, Joe sees a man with a blue face. He climbs the ladder that is his destiny, with each rung disappearing below him as he ascends. At the end of his dream, after a bust of Zeus crumbles, Joe's body is destroyed, leaving only his artwork behind.
The following written text appears at the beginning of the film: "Everybody dreams/Everybody travels/Sometimes into country where strange Beauty/Wisdom/Adventure/Love/expects him. This is a story of dreams mixed with reality." According to the film's program, the seven dream sequences that comprise the film were suggested by or inspired by the works of six famous artists: The first dream, called "Desire," was inspired by painter and sculptor Max Ernst's collages in his book Une Semaine de Bonté, ou, les sept elements capitaux: Roman (Paris, 1934). The second dream, "The Girl with the Pre-fabricated Heart," was suggested by French painter Fernand Léger. The third dream, "Ruth, Roses and Revolvers," was based on an original story by Man Ray, an American painter, photographer, filmmaker and graphic artist. The fourth dream, "Discs and Nudes Descending a Staircase," was inspired by French painter Marcel Duchamp's famous 1912 painting entitled "Nude Descending a Staircase." The fifth and sixth dreams, "Ballet" and "Circus," were billed as a "cinematic record" of Alexander Calder's mobiles. Calder's "Circus" mobile was created in 1927. The seventh and final dream, "Narcissus," was conceived by director and producer Hans Richter.
The opening credits appear just before "Joe" meets with his first client. After the onscreen credits indicate that the picture was produced and directed by Hans Richter, the following names appear after the word "with:" Werner Brandes, Lauren Denny, Peter Gluchanok, Dorothy Griffith, Richard Hulbeck, Julien Levy, Doris Okerson, Hans Rehfisch, Norma Cazanjian, Joseph Freeman, Leonard Grave, Geraldine Hamburg, Stanley Kotis, George Lubalin, Kathleen Phealan, Jack Schaindlin, Meyer Rosenblum, Herman Shulman, John Stix, Victor Vicas, Ruth Sobotka, Valery Tate and David Vern. While the designation "with" in the onscreen credits of a film generally indicates that the names that follow are of those who appeared in the film as actors, it May not be the case with this film as the onscreen credits are presented in an unusual fashion. Although it is possible that all the individuals listed above appeared in the film, only those who have been identified in the film's program as having appeared in the picture have been included in the cast. The exact nature of the contribution of Leonard Grave, Stanley Kotis, Kathleen Phealan, Jack Schaindlin and Valery Tate to the film has not been determined.
Although a February 1947 news item in Dance Magazine noted that the film was to be distributed by Century Films, it has not been determined if Century or Film Rights, Inc. actually distributed the film. The program for Dreams That Money Can Buy notes that Max Ernst worked in cooperation with Richter in writing, producing, directing and designing the "Desire" dream sequence in the film, for which Ernst wrote the dialogue. It also notes the the "Ruth, Roses and Revolvers" segment was based on an original story by Man Ray.
According to an unidentified contemporary article found in the clipping files of Lincoln Center New York Public Library, Art of This Century Films, Inc. was formed by Richter with $25,000 that he, Kenneth Macpherson and art patron Peggy Guggenheim donated. The article also notes that the film was shot over the course of three years at Richter's Manhattan loft (at 34 East 21st Street) during evening hours and on weekends and holidays. The picture was filmed without sound in 16mm Kodachrome and was later enlarged to 35mm. Sound was added after the initial filming, and reportedly cost about two-thirds of the film's budget. In a letter to the editor of Life magazine, appearing in the December 23, 1946 issue, Richter noted that the film was made for $15,000 and was filmed intermittently over the course of two years. Richter, who at the time of filming was a Film Technologies instructor at City College of New York, used many of his students as actors in the film. The filmmaker also economized on the production by offering artists an interest in the film's profits instead of a salary.
The Variety reviewer noted that the film, on its opening day showing in New York, was "frequently projected clear off the screen and onto the theatre ceiling, in several instances continuing so until the audience began whistling and clapping." Dreams That Money Can Buy was awarded the prize for best cinematography at the 1947 Venice Biennale Film Festival.