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Hard to Get (1938)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Romance  |  5 November 1938 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 310 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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Director: Lloyd Bacon
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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 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (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

A familiar plot with a new twist, a little music, and lots of humor
15 March 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Hard to Get" is not one of the rollicking 1930s comedies written with fast, witty dialog and repartee. Rather, it's a mixture of dialog and antics with a few nice tunes and some excellent acting. The plot is a familiar one for the time – a rich spoiled girl and a nice guy without money or social connections. Only, this film has some extra goodies. Dick Powell stars as Bill Davis and Olivia de Havilland plays Margaret ('Maggie') Richards. The supporting cast is wonderful, and all plays superb roles.

Charles Winninger has a considerable role as the patriarch of the family, Ben Richards, who made his gazillions of dollars in oil. He's an eccentric given to competition, especially in sports. His valet, Case, is on board primarily as his sparring partner. Melville Cooper plays Case very well, and Ben appears to get quite a workout in his role. Their face-offs are quite funny, and when someone interrupts Ben for a crisis in the family, he invariably gets taken by Case. They box and fence and wrestle their way through the work days. Ben comes up with some nonsensical epithets when interrupted, i.e. "Good lady Godiva on two while mules." Isabel Jeans plays Mrs. Richards, the epitome of high society snobbery. It struck me as a little strange because they would have been the nouveau rich – having come into their wealth in the past few decades. Such new wealth usually found it long and hard to break into the cream of society that was dominated by the blue bloods of money from the early pioneer period.

Rounding out the excellent supporting cast are Allen Jenkin as Bill's friend, Roscoe; Bonita Granville as Maggie's younger sister, Connie; Penny Singleton as the Richards' maid, Hattie; Thurston Hall as Ben's business friend, John Atwater; and Grady Sutton as Ben's office executive gopher, Stanley Potter. Mrs. Richards has some of the funniest lines in the movie. She hopes Maggie will marry Potter. She says, "The Potters are one of New York's oldest families. They came over with the Indians, or turkeys, or something." Connie, "You mean the pilgrims." Ben, "She means the turkeys." Other lesser roles are all played quite well.

The movie opens with the wealthy Richards family getting ready to leave New York City for the summer. They are heading for the summer playground of the New York super rich, Newport, Rhode Island. However, Maggie is revolting and doesn't want to go. Ben is on her side, but Mrs. Richards usually wins out. Mrs. Richards, "My dear girl, you're losing your senses. You know perfectly well there isn't a living, breathing soul in New York in the summer time." Maggie, "Except for nine or ten million people, mother."

The chauffeur carries in a box with two very tiny dogs in it. Mrs. Richards, "Oh, my poor darlings. You will stop the car occasionally, won't you, and let them run about for a bit?" Chauffeur, "Oh, yes, madam." Mrs. Richards, "That's what Brooks does with me on these long trips and it helps me so tremendously." At a dinner table scene, Hattie has some hilarious lines, posing as the Richards eldest daughter, while Maggie poses as a maid.

Dick Powell sang three songs in the movie, including the first pubic performance of "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer. Bing Crosby recorded it later and made it a hit single. Powell also did a very good imitation of Al Jolson's "Mammy" in blackface. This wasn't something incidental to the plot, but his blackface performance allowed him to sneak into an exclusive party.

Finally, this is a look at Olivia de Havilland in one of her comedy roles. She is known mostly for her dramatic roles, but she was a very versatile performer who played across the acting spectrum. About 30 percent of her films were dramas; nearly a quarter were comedy-romance; and she made several each of Westerns, mystery-crime films, and action- adventure movies. She also appeared in two musicals and one military flick as well as one horror show. De Havilland doesn't have the funny or quirky humor side that Jean Arthur, Carol Lombard, Barbrara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert, Irene Dunne or Ginger Rogers had. But what she does have is great dramatic ability. So, when we see her early scenes when Maggie is angry or upset, her role is so superbly played that one thinks she really was angry and vengeful at that moment. She surely is one of the greatest actresses of all time.

"Hard to Get" is a very good, entertaining and fun movie that the whole family should enjoy. The younger kids might especially like the funny scenes of Ben and Case fighting in various sports. One last thing of note, that another reviewer commented on. Toward the end of the movie, Ben and Case hunt down Bill who has taken a job as a riveter on a new high-rise building. The scenes are real with men being lifted to the top on steel girders.

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