The most interesting thing about '$20 a Week' (that's how the title appears in the opening credits) is the interaction between George Arliss and Ronald Colman as father and son. But most of their scenes are played separately.
Muriel Hart is a spoilt society girl who adopts a little boy as her son for all the wrong reasons. Much like a child who accepts a live duckling as a toy for Easter, then abandons it after the novelty wears off, Muriel soon tires of her bratty stepson Arthur. Her equally spoilt older brother William Hart (apparently not concerned that he has the same name as a cowboy actor) decides to one-up his sister. Muriel adopted a son, so William will adopt a father! After a chance meeting with a well-spoken but apparently impoverished old man named John Reeves, William decides to adopt this man as his own (and Muriel's) stepfather.
Actually, John Reeves is quite wealthy. In the first scene of this movie, we see him in his Park Avenue mansion arguing with his son Chester (Ronald Colman) over the value of money. To provide his point, the elder Reeves decides to put aside his wealth and go out into the world ... living on no more than $20 a week, without disclosing his identity nor drawing upon his wealth. (In 1924, $20 a week was a feasible budget.) To spite his son and amuse himself, John Reeves decides to become the 'stepfather' of the Harts, for the princely sum of $20 a week. Implausible events occur, with An Important Lesson at the end.
This movie isn't remotely plausible, but it's enjoyable anyway and Arliss has a rare chance to show his skill at comedy. But this is a gentle comedy of manners, not a laughfest. I was impressed with Ivan Sampson and Walter Howe. Taylor Holmes is best-known for the older roles he played in the 1940s; it's interesting to see him here as a younger man. The tousle-haired little boy who plays Muriel's stepson should be drawn and quartered. I'll rate this movie 5 out of 10.
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