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The Millionaire (1931)

A millionaire automaker retires upon the advice of his doctor, but becomes so bored he buys half interest in a gas station and works it on the sly.


John G. Adolfi


Earl Derr Biggers (based on "Idle Hands"), Booth Tarkington (dialogue) | 1 more credit »
3,670 ( 36,003)


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Complete credited cast:
George Arliss ... James Alden
Florence Arliss ... Mrs. Laura Alden
David Manners ... Bill Merrick
Evalyn Knapp ... Barbara Alden
James Cagney ... Schofield
Bramwell Fletcher ... Carter Andrews
Noah Beery ... Peterson
Ivan F. Simpson ... Davis (as Ivan Simpson)
J.C. Nugent J.C. Nugent ... Dr. Harvey
Sam Hardy ... McCoy
J. Farrell MacDonald ... Dan Lewis
Charley Grapewin ... Ed Powers (as Charles Grapewin)
Charles E. Evans Charles E. Evans ... The Gardener
Tully Marshall ... Briggs


Automaker James Alden is told to retire by his doctors and does so in deference to his wife Laura and daughter 'Babs.' He is not only bored after six months, but is told by a life insurance salesman that retired men are bad risks. So James secretly responds to an ad in the newspaper about a garage being for sale, but he (using the alias Charlie Miller) buys only half of the garage, since the other half was already sold to Bill Merrick, who becomes his partner. The ex-owner, Peterson, was dishonest in not revealing he was opening a new gas station near the new highway a mile down the road where most of the traffic will be. Not willing to be slickered by anybody, Charlie and Bill buy and elegantly rebuild a decrepit building across the street from Peterson's new station and compete handily with the charlatan. James uses a pretense to get away every day, but wonders how long he can keep up his double life. Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Comedy







Release Date:

1 May 1931 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Le millionnaire See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Brunswick Radios Used Exclusively)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The characters James Alden and his wife Laura are played by real husband and wife George Arliss and Florence Arliss. See more »


Version of The Ruling Passion (1922) See more »


Auld Lang Syne
Scottish traditional Music
Played in background when Alden retires
See more »

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User Reviews

Once again, George Arliss is delightful!
8 November 2016 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

It's a shame that George Arliss was already an old man by the time the talking picture era arrived. Had he been younger, he would have been an even bigger star as he was simply a terrific actor--the best of his era. He's so good that every film he's in has a lot of charm simply because of his presence. Because I have loved so many of his pictures, that's why I made sure to watch "The Millionaire" when it came on TCM.

The story is about James Alden, a rich man who owns a prosperous car manufacturing company. One day his doctor tells him he's got to quit work and retire to a quiet life...or his days are numbered. So naturally he retires...and soon is bored to death! When he meets a fast-talking insurance salesman (James Cagney), he realizes that it's better to die happy...and that means going back to work. However, his wife (played by Arliss' real life wife) isn't about to stand for him go to work...so he decides to do it on the sly.

Alden decides to buy himself something small...a job he can own and work at his own pace. He buys a half interest in a gas station and is shocked to learn that he's been cheated--as the man selling it knew that a new road was going in and it would bypass the station! He and his new partner are angry...and both vow to give that jerk a run for him money, as the nasty guy (Noah Beery) has used the money from the sale to open a new station on the new road.

In the meantime, Alden likes his new partner, Bill...but he doesn't reveal that he's Alden. Instead, he pretends that Alden gave him money for the station and Bill that Alden is a real jerk! This is a problem...as in the meantime Bill's fallen in love with Alden's daughter. Alden is happy, as her old boyfriend is a real putz! But instead of giving them his blessing, he decides to have a little joke! And, this leads to a very delightful finale.

Overall, this is yet another great Arliss film...and much of it is clearly due to Arliss. He was simply marvelous in the film and with most other actors it simply couldn't have been this good...and it is amazingly good and well worth your time. A cute and enjoyable little comedy.

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