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Comments for Brewster's Millions
Brewster's Millions: 06/13/14
Brewster's Millions by George Barr McCutcheon has been adapted to stage (at least once) and to the big screen six times and is apparently in development again. The version I know best is the 1945 film staring Dennis O'Keefe and Helen Walker. So when I found a nice 1902 edition (with photos from the stage play) at the tippy top of a bookshelf at the Book Shop, I snatched it up.
Montgomery Brewster has a girl friend and a happy life that includes living in a boarding house. An uncle dies and leaves him with a million. And he's basically set for life. He and his girl friend can get married and continue living in the boarding house her mother runs. End of story.
No. To further complicate things, an even more distant uncle who made his money in Montana dies and leaves him millions with a HUGE catch. He must prove himself worthy of the money by divesting himself of his newfound fortune through small but steady expenditures. He can't transfer his money to someone else. He can't tell anyone about these stipulations. He can't get married until after this trial is over. And it all has to be done by his next birthday.
Now here's a time when I think the movie (at least the 1945 version) is better than its source material. In the film, Brewster only inherits once. The untold fortune he is to inherit is tied to being able to divest himself of the first million of it. He can't just tell the lawyer for the second uncle to stuff it since he already by 1902 standards has a HUGE fortune and is living frugally to make it last. Nope, by the film's rules, it's all or nothing and the birthday deadline is shrunk to two months! The new rules and shorter deadline make for a madcap, screwball comedy.
The book thus takes its own sweet time going through situation after situation of funny money spending. So rather than getting a tightly written, humorous take on the old adage that "to make money, you need to spend money" (even when you don't want to!), there's instead a loosely woven series of gags, many of which fall flat.
The most groan worthy part of the book though is the section that inspired the very funny pleasure cruise that Brewster takes his fiancˇ on. In the movie, the cruise is a way to blow the last remaining funds as the deadline rapidly ticks down. It's also hinted in the film that they are using the trip to resume their relationship away from the watchful eyes of dead uncle's lawyer.
But but but... the book's cruise ends up taking months and months, this being a turn of the last century when vacations were by ship and often took weeks or months. So Brewster takes his girlfriend, who so far has decided he's not worth the effort since he's blown her off since getting his second inheritance, along for the cruise. Convincing her to come involves a lot of handwaving and HUGE plot holes and we're just expected to accept that she's part of this episode.
In the movie, they go somewhere like the Caribbean. It's close by and more typical of a modern day romantic cruise. And it's saves the movie from making the awful harem jokes that the book does. Yes Ń Brewster's fiancˇ to spite him nearly gets herself stolen away by an Arab sheik to be part of his harem.
For the sloppy pacing and wretched extended harem plot, I'm knocking two stars off my rating. The film, though, gets a full five stars.