It seems odd that so many films made during the Depression were about rich, pretty and sophisticated people. After all, with 20% of the population out of work and wages incredibly low, you'd think the patrons in the theaters would grow sick and tired of these fancy stories. But, despite this, the major studios made tons of films involving the lives of the rich and successful. Perhaps it was all escapism....with the average folks looking at what life COULD be like if.
In the case of "The Rich Are Always With Us", the film not only is about these rich folks but has a very healthy dose of Pre-Code sensibilities as well. What I mean is that before July, 1934, the studios often made movies with incredibly adult themes. Adultery, abortions, insanity, homosexuality and many topics which became taboo with the new Production Code had been pretty common in the years leading up to 1934. For example, the film actually uses the word 'sex'--very unusual even in the Pre-Code era....and it also treats marriage in a rather cavalier manner...one not allowed in films only two years later.
Caroline is an incredibly rich woman who is married to Greg. Despite this, she hangs out a lot with her male friend, Julian (George Brent) and Greg hangs around with Allison. The difference is that Caroline and Julian see it all as harmless flirtation...but Greg and Allison are actually lovers. When Caroline discovers this, she is incredibly understanding (too much so!) and encourages the pair to marry...and she's soon off to France to get a divorce and get Greg out of her system. Following the divorce, Julian arrives in France and asks Caroline to marry him...though she hesitates and he leaves. He's not about to beg her and is going to get on with his life. He ends up spending much of his time with another lady on the rebound (Bette Davis). And as for Caroline, it's difficult to say WHAT she wants. She ends up persuing Julian...but also starts spending time with Greg! What's to become of this...especially when Greg's new (and incredibly jealous) wife gets involved?!
As you watch the movie, it's very likely you'll feel like the characters are all being too polite and sophisticated. Normally, you'd expect divorcing people to hate each other or harbor SOME ill feelings....but not during most of this film. Caroline later DOES show some feelings....and keeps them to herself. After all, it wouldn't be polite to get angry!
So it this any good? Well, although it's hard to connect with and care about these people, the acting and direction were very good. Also, the ending is pretty limp....and really seemed a bit contrived. Overall, just an okay time-passer....and it should have been much better.
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