The 48th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set was 1941’s Pot O’ Gold. At first, I was really excited about watching Pot O’ Gold because it starred James Stewart, one of my favorite of the Golden Age stars. “Wow,” I thought, “James Stewart never made a bad movie! This is going to be great!” However, before watching the film, I looked Pot O’ Gold up on Wikipedia and I discovered that apparently, James Stewart considered Pot O’ Gold to be the worst film that he ever made.
After having watched the film, I think that Jimmy may very well have been correct in his assessment.
Pot O’ Gold is a musical comedy. Stewart plays Jimmy Haskell, the owner of a music store. Jimmy loves music but he’s a terrible businessman. Despite the fact that his store always seems to be full of quirky characters playing musical instruments, it still goes out of business. Jimmy is forced to go to work for his uncle, C.J. Haskell (Charles Winninger). C.J. not only owns a health food company but he also produces a radio show.
And, on top of all that, C.J. hates music!
Unfortunately, considering how much C.J. hates music, he lives right next door to the McCorkles, a family of Irish musicians. The McCorkles are constantly practicing in front of C.J.’s store and, as a result, C.J. is constantly forced to call the cops to make them go away.
When Jimmy first arrives at the store, he befriends the McCorkles. He even falls in love with Molly McCorkle (Paulette Goddard). Unfortunately, none of the McCorkles know that he is C.J.’s nephew and C.J. doesn’t know that his nephew secretly continues to love music. Meanwhile, C.J. is trying to catch the mysterious person who threw a tomato at him. What he doesn’t realize is that the tomato was thrown by … JIMMY!
And it just keeps going on and on from there. C.J. conspires to get rid of the McCorkles. Jimmy tries to bring peace between the two sided without the Molly discovering that he’s related to C.J. and without C.J. realizing that Jimmy threw that tomato. Jimmy eventually goes on C.J.’s radio show and soon, he’s using the show as a way to give away money to the needy. Meanwhile, he struggles to forge peace between the McCorkles and C.J. without Molly discovering his true identity and without C.J. finding out he threw that tomato. Will C.J. ever learn to love music and will it ever occur to anyone that this whole mess could easily be resolved by everyone making an effort not to randomly break out into song every time C.J. happens to be walking down the street?
Pot O’ Gold is an amazingly silly movie and I don’t mean silly in a good way. This is one of those films where every issue could be resolved if people just showed a little intelligence. It’s also a movie where everyone breaks into song every few minutes. The key to a successful musical is that the songs have to feel like the grow organically out of the action. The songs in Pot O’ Gold feel like they’re just there to be there.
Personally, I think James Stewart is one of those actors who can make any movie worth seeing. He is his normal, likable self in this film but Pot O’ Gold never seems worthy of his famous persona.
Incidentally, Pot O’ Gold’s credited producer was James Roosevelt, FDR’s wastrel son. I don’t know how much he had to do with the actual production but I’ve always wanted an excuse to use the word “wastrel” in a review.