The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.
IF I HAD A MILLION
Directed by Norman Taurog, Norman McLeod, Stephen Roberts, H. Bruce Humberstone, James Cruze, Ernst Lubitsch, and William A. Seiter • 1932
Every now and then, when studios had endless rosters of talent and topflight technicians, they would toss off rambling, oversized ensemble films for the sole purpose of reminding audiences of their plenty. Paramount’s effort was more memorable than most and still beloved to this day. The premise is slender—an elderly tycoon (Richard Bennett) decides to disperse his millions amongst random schmoes in the phone directory—but the diverse notes of tragedy, comedy, and epiphany in the vignettes that follow are rich: Wynne Gibson as a prostitute, relieved that she can finally afford a single-occupancy bed; henpecked china shop associate Charlie Ruggles who spends an exhilarating day at the office; career criminal George Raft who can’t forge his way out of this one; and road-rage-prone W.C. Fields. And that’s only half of it. Content to develop stripped-down but emotionally robust miniatures (the Charles Laughton-Ernst Lubitsch segment might be the two most succinct minutes in the history of cinema), If I Had a Million compares well with today’s ensemble pieces, obsessed as they are with tying together every character through a web
of coincidence, fate, and excruciating designs. (KW)
88 min • Paramount • 35mm from Universal
Short: Laurel & Hardy in “Early to Bed” (Emmet J. Flynn, 1928) 16mm