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Hard to Get (1938)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Romance  |  5 November 1938 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 323 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 2 critic

When spoiled young heiress Maggie Richards tries to charge some gasoline at an auto camp run by Bill Davis, he makes her work out her bill by making beds. Resolving to get even, she ... See full summary »



(screen play), (screen play), 4 more credits »
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Title: Hard to Get (1938)

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Complete credited cast:
Margaret (as Olivia De Havilland)
Charles Winninger ...
Ben Richards
Melville Cooper ...
Mrs. Richards
Grady Sutton ...
Stanley Potter
Thurston Hall ...
John Ridgely ...
Penny Singleton ...
Granville Bates ...
Judge Harkness
Jack Mower ...


When spoiled young heiress Maggie Richards tries to charge some gasoline at an auto camp run by Bill Davis, he makes her work out her bill by making beds. Resolving to get even, she pretends to have forgiven him, and sends him to her father to get financing for a plan Bill has. What happens next was not part of her original revenge plan. Written by Les Adams <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

5 November 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Difícil de Apanhar  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Herbert Ashley (Waiter) and Cliff Saum (Rivet Thrower) are listed as actors with those character names by some sources, but they were not seen in the print. See more »


When Bill is forcibly carrying Margaret from her car after she can't pay for the gas, just after they pass the pumps the shadow of the boom microphone can be seen following them on the ground. See more »


Margaret Richards: May I have your hat sir?
Bill Davis: Yeah. Say, take it easy, its the only one I got.
Margaret Richards: I'll put it in the safe.
See more »


References The Firefly (1937) See more »


You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby
(1938) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Played during the opening and closing credits
Sung by Dick Powell
Played as background music often
See more »

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User Reviews

Getting Even With Bill
9 May 2003 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

HARD TO GET (Warner Brothers, 1938), directed by Ray Enright, is another one of many formula fluff comedies capitalizing on the current trend of spoiled rich girl and the common working man. Not quite Frank Capra material, but something along that line.

The spoiled heiress in question is Margaret "Maggie" Richards (Olivia De Havilland), who happens to be young, pretty and bored. She has a sophisticated mother, Henrietta (Isabel Jeans); a business-tycoon father, Ben (Charles Winninger), who spends most of his time doing physical fitness by wrestling with his valet (Melville Cooper) behind office doors and at home; and a bratty kid sister, Connie (Bonita Granville). Because she doesn't want to go to New Port with her family, Maggie storms out of the mansion and takes the convertible. Running low on gasoline, she stops at the Federal Oil and Gas Company, a gas-station motel, to fuel up, where she is served its owner, Bill Davis (Dick Powell), and his partner, Roscoe (Allen Jenkins). Because Maggie accidentally left her purse at home and is unable to pay the $3.48 gas debt, she tells Bill to charge it. Because she's a total stranger, and been duped before, Bill puts this snooty customer to work cleaning out cabins and making the beds. Although Maggie tries sneaking away several times, Bill outsmarts her. After doing her chores, Maggie, resenting Bill's actions, returns home demanding her father to have the gas station attendant fired. Old Man Richards surprises his daughter by agreeing with the young man's actions, and that she is now a young woman who should now look out for herself. This she does, by plotting a vicious scheme getting even with Bill. Returning to the gas station the following morning, she pretends to be sorry, and sweet talks him into taking her out to a dinner date. During those few hours with him, Maggie learns Bill to be an ambitious architect having designed an auto court for a proposed chain of them across the country. What he badly lacks is money and a financier to back him. Maggie suggests Ben Richards (not telling him that he's her father but that of being his maid), and gives him the secret password, "Spouter," so to get past the secretary. Each time Bill goes to the office, he gets thrown out, physically. In spite of everything, Bill is not discouraged, going through extremes (disguising himself as a cleaning lady) to have one of these financial backers examine his blueprints. Once he learns Maggie has played him for a practical joke, he gives up. It's now up to Maggie to amend her ways, and when she does, Bill is gone and nowhere to be found.

Occasionally labeled a musical, HARD TO GET is actually a straight comedy with three (really two) songs inserted, crooned by Dick Powell only so briefly. The first, "There'a a Sunny Side to Every Situation" is heard only through a few verses by Powell minus any underscoring. The second tune , "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," crooning to De Havilland on a canoe ride in Central Park, is a song standard composed by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer. What fitting lyrics to proclaim De Havilland's beauty. The third and final is an old one, "Sonny Boy" originally introduced by Al Jolson in THE SINGING FOOL (1928). While Jolson sang it for sentiment, Powell (disguised in black-face passing as a member of a band) sings it for laughs. His rendition almost sounds like Jolson himself, performing it to a point where the guests look on confusingly.

HARD TO GET may not as famous as the other "screwball" comedies from that era, but it does have some bright moments. Penny Singleton as Hattie, a daffy maid, gets one during an amusing dinner sequence. Switching roles with Maggie, pretending to be the débutante, Singleton displays her ability in comic timing where she becomes responsible for making the proposed dinner party a near disaster. Following the dinner, Powell quips, "That dame... she should be parked on Edgar Bergen's other knee." Although some portions of HARD TO GET might be a trifle slow, it's redeemed by a construction site sequence where Old Man Richards and his valet find the only way to get to speak to Davis, working 40 flights up, is by hanging onto a steal beam lifted over the city streets. While this is obviously done with rear projection screen, it get by realistically.

As with most comedies during this period, HARD TO GET gets great support by familiar character actors ranging from Grady Sutton, Granville Bates, Nella Walker and Vera Lewis to Arthur Housman doing one of his many drunk interpretations. Charles Winninger, a Hollywood reliable, gives one of his many business tycoons and lovable father-type performances that has made his famous. Melville Cooper provides some really droll comedy relief with his constant quipping of "Amazing!"

HARD TO GET is further evidence of the Warner Brothers musical with lavish dance numbers by Busby Berkeley and Warren and Dubin tunes becoming a thing of the past. Powell continues to sing a song or two, but by 1938 was concentrated more as a light comedy actor in routine assignments. De Havilland, best known for her numerous adventure films opposite Errol Flynn, would appear in more comedies of this sort, but like Powell, she proved her ability in assuming dramatic roles in the changing times of the 1940s.

The 80 minute presentation of HARD TO GET can be seen whenever presented on Turner Classic Movies. Amazing! (**1/2)

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