In 1918, Eleanor H. Porter published a novel titled Oh, Money! Money!, a light comedy about the influence of inherited money on the Blaisdell family. Porter was already famous for her popular novel Pollyanna, but while that story has endured through generations, this one is forgotten. That doesn't make it any less charming. Stanley Fulton is the protagonist, a millionaire without a family who is contemplating what he should do with his fortune. He does not want to give it to charity but he does not want to give it to a stranger or a distant relative without vetting them first. He decides to don an alter-ego, so as John Smith he travels to Hillerton to impose himself as a boarder on one of his distant cousins, telling them he is a genealogist studying the family for a book he is working on. While there he gets the goods on three siblings and their half sister known as "Poor Maggie" to find out if they are deserving of his money, what they would do with it if they had it, and if it would make them happy.
Perhaps riding a wave of nostalgia, Universal dug the story up for use for their 1952 film Has Anybody Seen My Gal. This time the story is set in the late 1920s, and they do an excellent job of sticking to the visuals from the era. The Blaisdell home has a carved wood staircase, a wood hall tree, crocheted blankets, fringed lamps, stained glass, a piano and other ephemera from the period. The women wear drop-waisted dresses and cloche hats; the men dress in three piece suits or fraternity sweaters and raccoon coats. The music choices are authentic to the era, (songs include the title song "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue," "When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin' Along," and "Gimmie a Little Kiss") and although there are a few dance numbers, this wouldn't qualify as a traditional musical. Each song is integrated into the film in a way that decreases in scale and doesn't drive the action along.
This time Stanley Fulton is an older man played by Charles Coburn. Rather than a genealogist, he poses as an artist and targets the family of his deceased childhood sweetheart to bequeath his fortune. Screenwriter Joseph Hoffman focused on one family from the novel rather than all three (and a half) siblings. Charles Blaisdell (Larry Gates) runs the town pharmacy and struggles to make ends meet. His soda jerk (Rock Hudson) is in love with his daughter Millicent (Piper Laurie), but doesn't make much money. Mrs. Harriet Blaisdell (Lynn Bari) wants her daughter to marry wealthy Carl Pennock (Skip Homier) even though he's a snob and a borderline alcoholic. Their son Howard (William Reynolds) is in a fraternity with Pennock but has a hard time keeping up with him. Roberta (Gigi Perreau) is the youngest child and least affected of the lot.
The dialogue is very good, and Perreau gets many laughs. Her first exchange with Coburn is as follows:
ROBERTA: Are you the John Smith who was in love with Pocahontas? JOHN: My dear young lady, do I look 300 years old? Don't answer that question.
She also refers to her mother, who has fainted, when she says, "She doesn't want water. She wants money."
The film is a delight through and through and it is faithful to the source material's theme that money and happiness are not always linked. The moral judgments made on the various types of people in the novel are not as developed in the film, but if you're looking for escapism and nostalgia, heavy handed morals aren't on the menu.
Look for a cameo by James Dean at the soda fountain.