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Dorothy Hunter is an heiress of untold wealth. She believes no one will love her for herself and not for her money, so she pretends to be her secretary Sylvia while Sylvia pretends to be Dorothy. The real Dorothy, attracted to handsome young Tony Travers, pushes him to fall in love with the fake Dorothy, believing that if he does, it proves he is only after her money. But Dorothy's scheme is too complicated and begins to backfire, leaving everyone, especially Dorothy, confused about who loves whom. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Oh, its possible, I may get married someday. You know how those things are. And who'll I marry?
I don't know.
Some nice girl, that's who. No, whom. No, who! Some nice girl, that's who. And I'll get to know her and I'll be able to talk to her, you know, like a pal. Like this! Like we're talking.
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Mistaken identity has always been a classic theme of comedy; many comic characters in Shakespeare or Moliere, for example, disguise themselves as somebody else, but the device is even older, dating back at least to the days of the Greek and Roman theatre. The advantage of this device is that it enables the dramatist to make the most of the ensuing confusion for humorous purposes.
The plot of 'The Richest Girl in the World' is one with which classical dramatists would have felt at home. The central character is Dorothy Hunter, the heiress to a large fortune. (The similarity of surnames suggests that the model for Dorothy may have been the Woolworths heiress Barbara Hutton). She is worried that potential suitors will love her for her money and not for herself. She therefore changes places with her attractive secretary Sylvia. If any man shows an interest in the supposed 'Sylvia' (who is really Dorothy in disguise), she suggests to him that the supposed 'Dorothy' (really Sylvia in disguise) has fallen in love with him and would welcome a proposal of marriage. The real Sylvia is happily married and has no interest in any of Dorothy's suitors; the point of this charade is that if the man shows any interest in the fake 'Dorothy' he has thereby failed the test and proved himself unworthy of the real Dorothy's hand. The film chronicles Dorothy's attempts to play this trick on her latest beau, Tony.
This plot could have been the basis of an intriguing comedy, but it is not really developed well enough. This is less the fault of the actors than of the script. In this age of the turgid three-hour blockbuster it seems strange to criticise a film for being too short, but an hour and ten minutes were not sufficient to bring out all the comic possibilities of the situation, and the conclusion of the film is both rushed and muddled. (Perhaps the film was originally the B-movie in a double bill with a set, and limited, running-time, which would explain the scriptwriter's haste to get everything tidied up as soon as possible.) Dorothy's elderly guardian, Jonathan, does suggest that she may be guilty of psychological cruelty in pushing her deception of Tony so far, but the film makes no attempt to explore the deeper implications of her behaviour. Her wealth is, after all, an important part of her identity, so by posing as her own secretary she has effectively persuaded Tony to fall in love with her under false pretences. The film, however, prefers to ignore the philosophical implications of this deception.
Like many comedies of the period, this is a light film, in the sense that it is lighthearted but also in the sense that it is lightweight. Even in the era when it was made, it was probably seen as no more than an amusing trifle. It has not stood the test of time well, and today comes across as trivial and faded. 5/10
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