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The Idle Rich (1929)

Passed | | Comedy | 15 June 1929 (USA)
Millionaire William van Luyn falls in love with his secretary Joan Thayer and marries her. Her family, part of "the great middle class" (as blowhard nephew Henry keeps reminding us), is ... See full summary »


William C. de Mille (as William de Mille)


Edith Ellis (play), Edgar Franklin (adapted from the story: "Regular People" by) | 1 more credit »


Complete credited cast:
Conrad Nagel ... William Van Luyn
Bessie Love ... Helen Thayer
Leila Hyams ... Joan Thayer aka Joan Van Luyn
Robert Ober ... Henry Thayer
James Neill ... Mr. Thayer
Edythe Chapman ... Mrs. Thayer
Paul Kruger ... Tom Gibney
Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson ... Frank Thayer
Learn more

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Millionaire William van Luyn falls in love with his secretary Joan Thayer and marries her. Her family, part of "the great middle class" (as blowhard nephew Henry keeps reminding us), is happy for Joan, but reluctant to take charity from Will. He moves in with them, and they keep resisting, until one day he takes drastic action. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Some one said you can even hear the coffee boil over in the Idle Rich. (Print Ad- Beaufort News, ((Beaufort, NC)) 8 August 1929) See more »




Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


This was an adaptation of a Broadway play titled "White Collars" by Edith Ellis. The original stage production opened at the Cort Theatre in New York on Feb. 23, 1925 and ran for 104 performances. There was a later film adaptation called Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938) starring Robert Young, Lew Ayres, Ruth Hussey and Lana Turner. See more »


Joan Thayer: I see it all, dear. Very clearly. We live in two different worlds! You were very sweet to them all today; but, you did think Henry a bore.
William van Luyn: No, I didn't. No, I didn't, Joan.
Joan Thayer: Oh, yes, you did. And you thought Frank was a blank and Helen was vulgar.
William van Luyn: Why, nothing of the sort, Joan. I thought she was a cute kid.
See more »


Version of Rich Man, Poor Girl (1938) See more »

User Reviews

Reverse class consciousness in this fun early talkie
15 July 2012 | by AlsExGalSee all my reviews

The film is stage-bound due to early sound technology and existing elements are a little visually shaggy with quite a bit of noise in the sound recording, but it is still extremely watchable and most enjoyable.

The film opens in an office with wealthy William van Luyn (Conrad Nagel) giving dictation to his secretary Joan Thayer(Leila Hyams). Suddenly he declares his love to her and she to him. He proposes marriage and she heartily accepts. But practical Joan brings up a potential problem - the difference in their respective classes may cause their families to clash. Joan isn't worried Bill's family will not accept her - she's afraid her family will not accept him! This puts the film on a completely different footing as so many rich man/poor woman true love stories of the era in which the wealthy family distrusts the unwealthy fiancée and tries to disrupt the romance. Instead this is a case study on class consciousness in reverse.

Next we meet the Thayer clan at home ready to meet their relative to be. Joan's mom, dad, and brother are normal enough, but Joan's live-in cousin is a kind of Bolshevik for the middle class. He corners poor Bill at every opportunity and talks to him about the woes of - not the poor - but the middle class, those who don't have enough money not to worry but who do have enough money and pride not to qualify for or accept charity. As someone else has already written, though, Bessie Love steals the show as Joan's kid sister Helen. She is very anxious to climb that social ladder and have material goods and comforts and here her sister has brought in the possible means to all of her dreams.

After they are married, Joan insists that the couple live in their family's hot little flat in her old bedroom so that Bill can learn about the ways of the middle class. Mom and dad think she's a bit screwy, but of course won't turn them away. At first Bill seems to be putting on a brave face as he acts like Gulliver in Lilliput encountering closets, couches, and bedrooms two sizes too small, not to mention the lack of privacy. However, Joan's plan works better than she planned or desired, as two weeks into their stay Bill announces that he plans to give away all of his money to build a hospital and a foundation for "the great middle class". How will the family react? How will all of this work out? Watch and find out.

Conrad Nagel gives a delightful performance as a genuinely nice guy who just happens to be rich and just can't figure out what all of the fuss and hostility is about. Bessie Love really does seem like Leila Hyam's kid sister even though Ms. Love is actually seven years older than Ms.Hyams. Great ensemble acting by some of MGM's lesser known stars and highly recommended.

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Release Date:

15 June 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

White Collars See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

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