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I've given this a high rating not so much due to the film itself, which is a very entertaining and charming comedy, but because every one of the performances in the film is first rate and at least somewhat attention-stealing. You expect this from the stars, Robert Donat, Wendy Barrie and Edmund Gwenn, but not quite from the supporting players, four of whom - Lawrence Grossmith, Clifford Heatherley, Morris Harvey and Hugh E. Wright - make it impossible not to regret the general lack of knowledge most of us have about the plethora of great English character actors that peopled the stage and screen of Great Britain over the last century. These were all important actors in their day (Heatherley had his own acting company for many years and was of considerable importance in the English theater), and one could enjoy the film over and over just for their contributions. However, as good as they are, and as well as Donat and Barrie play together, this is Edmund Gwenn's film, and at least four or five times he had me laughing out loud at his delightful performance as a destitute businessman trying, with the help of Barrie and Donat, to pull the wool over the eyes of some other businessmen in order to get them to invest in his latest scheme. Gwenn, of course, was one of the most lovable actors in creation, and achieved a real measure of fame in the U.S.A. thanks to his performances in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, MR. 880 and THEM, but even though most of those films were comedies, he was not usually funny, nor was he supposed to be, in them; he specialized in warm and lovable elderly types and played them to perfection (although he played an assassin in FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, where he was anything but warm and lovable!). Before all of this, however, he had been one of G.B. Shaw's favorite actors and had appeared in both the original casts and in revivals of many of the great man's plays. In IF I WERE RICH, however, he has a comedic role that requires an astonishing amount of energy, pointed delivery, slyness and befuddlement, and he acts it to hilarious perfection. If I were to choose only one role to remember Edmund Gwenn by, it would be this one.
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