Cast & Crew
Socialite Juliette Hunter meets construction worker Hap Harrigan when a hot rivet flies through her bedroom window and starts a fire. Faking illness, Julie stays in bed that day so she can watch Hap work on the building next door. She invites him to have lunch with her and, during the meal, they discuss the possibility of love between two people of different classes. Encouraged by the conversation, Hap asks Julie out for the next evening. Clay, a young man of Julie's class, proposes to Julie the same day, but she is too interested in Hap to accept. Her date with Hap is a success. She likes his friends, Bill Dugan and Margie, and they like her. When asked by her family about why she refused Clay, Julie tells them about Hap, letting them think he is really an architect. She invites Hap, Bill and Margie to a house party in the country, so that Hap can meet her parents. There, Clay learns Hap's real profession, and when Hap asks Mr. Hunter for permission to marry Julie, Clay reveals what he has discovered. Hap is angry that Julie didn't think his job was good enough for her family and breaks off their engagement. Julie cannot forget Hap, however, and when she sees Margie in a nightclub, she obtains the address of his current construction site. Renting a room overlooking the construction site, she invites Hap to have lunch with her. When he refuses, she climbs out on the scaffolding, bringing the lunch to him. Julie agrees to live on Hap's salary and insists that they get married that very day.
The Hot Heiress
The picture was originally planned as Sweethearts, a vehicle for Ziegfeld Follies star Marilyn Miller. The plot was an inversion of her usual rags-to-riches stories. She would have starred as an heiress who falls for a construction worker and, after first trying to pass him off to her swank friends as an architect, agrees to live on his salary in the name of love. Seeking a more reliable vehicle, Miller opted to star in the film version of her stage hit Sunny instead, so First National Studios turned to starlet Ona Munson.
Munson certainly had the chops to star in a musical. After an early career in vaudeville, she had top-lined the Broadway smash No, No Nanette and introduced the song "You're the Cream in My Coffee." But at the time she was better known for having recently ditched her husband, actor-director Eddie Buzzell, for an affair with director Ernst Lubitsch. Less known was her private predilection for amorous encounters with other women; she would number Marlene Dietrich, Alla Nazimova, the Countess Dorothy di Frasso and Mercedes De Acosta among her conquests. Munson never really hit it big in Hollywood. She got her most famous role when producer David O. Selznick looked beyond her freckles and bird-like frame to see that makeup and padding could transform her into Atlanta's most notorious Madame, Belle Watling, in Gone With the Wind (1939). When that film's success did little for her standing in Hollywood, Munson switched to radio, becoming CBS's first female producer. Haunted by professional, personal and health problems, she would commit suicide in 1955.
More cheery were the futures of leading men Lyon and Walter Pidgeon. Lyon had started on stage as a teenager and risen to stardom in silent films. His biggest hit had been the World War I aviation thriller Hell's Angels (1930), and he was still riding on that success when he took the lead in The Hot Heiress. But although he sang serviceably, had great comic timing, and was almost as pretty as his leading lady, he never scored another big hit in American films. Instead, he and Daniels moved to London, where they became stars of radio and film playing themselves, a show-biz couple.
Pidgeon had started his career in musical theatre, where he introduced Irving Berlin's "What'll I Do?" and "All Alone." After a few silent films, he had moved into talkies as a musical star, though his role as Munson's jilted society boyfriend in The Hot Heiress didn't give him a chance to sing. With the decline of the musical, he returned to the stage until he could build a new film career in the late '30s as a dependable leading man at MGM. Fortunately, that put him in the right place for his most noteworthy screen roles, as Greer Garson's ideal co-star in a series of eight films including Mrs. Miniver (1942) and Madame Curie (1943).
With three songs from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, including the catchy love duet "Like Ordinary People Do" and the imaginatively staged "Nobody Loves a Riveter But His Mother," First National expected The Hot Heiress to be a big hit. The latter made particularly good use of the potential of talking films, as construction sounds and the song form a background to various scenes in which people respond to the leading man's noisy line of work. The songwriters were thrilled with life in Hollywood and had signed a multi-picture deal with the studio. But the film fell afoul of the musical's waning popularity and drew weak reviews and weaker box office. Nor did it help that Rodgers wife, Dorothy, arrived and decided that Hollywood life just wasn't for her. The team negotiated an end to their contract and went back to Broadway. They were back within a year, however, making film musical history at Paramount with Rouben Mamoulian's Love Me Tonight (1932), starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald. Interestingly, that film's famous setting of "Isn't It Romantic?" would use ideas that had first appeared in The Hot Heiress.
Director: Clarence G. Badger
Screenplay: Herbert Fields
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Art Direction: Jack Okey
Music: Richard Rodgers, Leon Rosebrook
Principal Cast: Ben Lyon ("Hap" Harrigan), Ona Munson (Juliette Hunter), Walter Pidgeon (Clay), Tom Dugan (Bill Dugan), Holmes Herbert (Mr. Hunter), Inez Courtney (Margie), Thelma Todd (Lola).
by Frank Miller
The Hot Heiress
This movie was such a box-office flop that Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart declined to work on two additional films for First National Studio (although their songs were about the only thing the critics liked about this movie).