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Hard to Get 1938
Description: 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 receive even, she pretends to have forgiven him, and sends him to her father to receive financing for a plan Bill has. What happens next was not part of her original revenge plan.
Released: 05 Nov 1938 Director: Ray Enright Writers: Jerry Wald (screen play), Maurice Leo (screen play), Richard Macaulay (screen play), Wally Kline (from an original screen story by), Joseph Schrank (from an original screen story by), Stephen Morehouse Avery (suggested by a story by) Actors: Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland, Charles Winninger, Allen Jenkins Genres: Comedy, Romance
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Hard to Get Reviews:

HARD TO GET (Warner Brothers, 1938), directed by Ray Enright, is other one of many formula fluff comedies capitalizing on the actual trend of spoiled rich woman 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, cute 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 child sister, Connie (Bonita Granville). Because she doesn't wish to go to Fresh Port with her family, Maggie storms out of the mansion and takes the convertible. Running weak 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 says 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 few 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 Boy Richards surprises his daughter by agreeing with the young man's actions, and that she is actually a young girl who could actually 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 several 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 cash and a financier to back him. Maggie suggests Ben Richards (not saying him that he's her father but that of being his maid), and gives him the secret password, "Spouter," so to receive past the secretary. Every 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 actually 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 now a straight comedy with three (really two) songs inserted, crooned by Dick Powell only so briefly. The first, "There'a a Sunny Side to Each Situation" is heard only through a several verses by Powell minus any underscoring. The second tune , "You Gotta Have Been a Pretty 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 mission where the guests look on confusingly.HARD TO GET may not as popular as the another "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 could be parked on Edgar Bergen's another knee." Although some portions of HARD TO GET might be a trifle slow, it's redeemed by a construction website sequence where Old Boy Richards and his valet search the only method to receive to speak to Davis, working 40 flights up, is by hanging onto a steal beam lifted over the town streets. While this is obviously done with rear projection screen, it receive by realistically.As with most comedies during this period, HARD TO GET gets nice help by familiar hero 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, greatest known for her numerous journey movies 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)


A spoiled rich woman wants revenge on the gas station attendant who humiliated her - he wants to sell his concept for auto courts across America; both are about to learn that some things in life are very HARD TO GET.This is a wonderful, hilarious screwball comedy, boasting nice performances, genuine laughs & fine production values. Witty & winning, it is a shame it is so obscure today.Dick Powell appears to be having a terrific time as the young go-getter with the large ideas. As eager to please as a puppy dog, he enthusiastically hurls himself into the zany plot permutations. Whether impersonating Jolson singing ‘Sonny Boy,' or introducing the song hit ‘You Gotta Have Been A Pretty Baby,' Powell is never less than entertaining.Lovely Olivia de Havilland is a pure pleasure to watch as she slowly bends to Powell's winning ways. Considered more of a dramatic actress, her considerable comedic talents are on full display here. The stage where she attempts to serve a fancy dinner while impersonating her maid is a quiet riot.An unusually huge cast of helping users support transport the fun right along: cuddly Charles Winninger as Olivia's physical fitness angry dad; Isabel Jeans & Bonita Granville as his insufferably snooty wife & youngest daughter; Melville Cooper as Winninger's long-suffering valet; Allen Jenkins as Powell's dimwitted buddy; Thurston Hall as a banker with a risky love of practical joking; Grady Sutton as Olivia's flaccid suitor; and Penny Singleton as a wonderfully unsophisticated servant.Movie mavens will recognize Arthur Housman as a polite inebriate, and Arthur Hoyt, Vera Lewis & Jimmy Conlin as attendees at a flower lovers' banquet, all uncredited.Rear projection screening was the bane of the cinema for years, as its patently fake visuals tended to distract from the action. HARD TO GET, therefore, deserves some credit for its splendidly vertiginous high-rise construction segment, which really does grab keep of the viewer's spine.


It's difficult to trust that this tiny Warner Bros. comedy was made a year before de Havilland played Melanie in Gone with the Wind. She is such a feisty, saucy tiny minx that it's no wonder Dick Powell has to tame her. Proof that de Havilland was not just a fluffy ingenue is the fact that three movies soon she was testing the demure, ladylike Melanie. Makes you wonder why Jack Warner never totally appreciated her talent. Anyway, this is an enjoyable comedy about a brash architect working as a gas station attendant who treats a spoiled heiress rather harshly when she has no cash to pay for gas. She decides to turn the tables on him and therein lies the germ of a plot. Charles Winninger and Melville Cooper are delicious in helping roles, as is Penny Singleton as a dim-witted maid in the wealthy man's household. Too terrible this one isn't accessible on video. Like other early de Havilland comedy, It's Love I'm After, it deserves to be seen by viewers who don't have Turner Classic Films on their cable stations.



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