Independently wealthy American Jack Forbes has just arrived in Paris. Because of his wealth, he can have any woman on his arms. Currently that role is filled by Marcelle Dubrey, but Jack ... See full summary »
A power-broker ward-heeler, Bill Grimes, wields more power than the elected politicians and has no problem in getting matters-of-the-city handled in which ever way is best for his needs. ... See full summary »
Independently wealthy American Jack Forbes has just arrived in Paris. Because of his wealth, he can have any woman on his arms. Currently that role is filled by Marcelle Dubrey, but Jack ditches her when he spots the woman of his dreams. When Jack tells his equally wealthy friend Michael Cummins that he will marry that mystery woman, Michael, upon learning that that woman is Lu Lu Carroll who he too has been trying to court, bets Jack $50,000 that he can't give up all his money and get engaged to her within two weeks. Jack accepts the bet as Mike strips him of his money. Jack has to try and meet and woo her all without doing anything with her that requires money, all the while trying to hide the fact that he has no money as he tries to earn some using whatever limited job skills he has at hand. Meanwhile, Mike hires a couple of American detectives, Simon Johanssen and Peter Swanson, to tail Jack to ensure that he keeps to the rules of the bet, but also to thwart Jack's attempts with ... Written by
"50 Million Frenchman" was originally a stage musical. And, apart from completely missing the songs*, it plays exactly like a stage production. It's very episodic with lots of Vaudeville-style humor. While it nominally stars the comedy team of Olsen and Johnson, they really are relegated to supporting roles where they walk on and do tiny comedy bits--bits that often seem to have NOTHING to do with the film's plot. As for the plot, it's about an American who meets a nice girl in France and falls for her BUT he accidentally loses his money and is forced to get a job. However, he IS rich and has bet another man that he can win the woman's heart without spending a fortune on her. Will she love him for who he is or will the man's friend win her, as he ISN'T pretending to be poor?
Back to Olsen and Johnson. Although this team is practically unknown today, they were quite successful on stage and made a few movies. Most of the ones I've seen were only fair, but their film "Hellzapoppin" is a terrific comedy. "50 Million Frenchmen" is NOT brilliant--mostly because Olsen and Johnson's material is pretty bad. Too often they weren't very funny and were quite corny--and the team laughed uproariously like every line was hilarious...which only reinforced how unfunny they were. In fact, the entire film is flat and unfunny and has not aged well. My feeling is that the film would have been much better without the comedy OR if they gave up entirely on the plot and just had a lot of zaniness (which is exactly why "Hellzapoppin" was such a good film). The other problem is that the film is simply too talky--as if the folks making the film didn't really understand the new medium of talking pictures.
Look carefully at Orizon the Magician. Underneath the beard and the costume, that's Bela Lugosi! He made this bit appearance before making his breakout film, "Dracula". However, as "50 Million Frenchmen" was held about a year before it was released, it turned out both films were released the same day back in 1931!
*While musicals were THE rage in the very early days of talking pictures, within only a couple years, the genre was pretty stale and box office receipts for these films dropped. So, while the Best Picture Oscar went to "Broadway Melody" in 1930, but around 1931 the films appeared to be passé. Because of this, studio execs ordered all the songs removed from "50 Million Frenchmen" before it was released. By about 1933-34, musicals were suddenly popular once again. Why the change? I have always assumed it's because the sound technology improvements enabled the musicals to sound a lot better and weren't inhibited by primitive microphones and flat sound. Additionally, the studios simply refined their style and plots enough that they once again were appealing to Depression-era audiences.
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