Brewster's Millions

Brewster's Millions is a novel written by George Barr McCutcheon in 1902, originally under the pseudonym of Richard Greaves. It was adapted into a play in 1906, which opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway,[1] and the novel or play has been adapted into films thirteen times, four of which were produced in India.

Brewster's Millions
Reprint cover
AuthorGeorge Barr McCutcheon
CountryUnited States
GenreComedy novel
PublisherHerbert S. Stone
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)

Plot summary

The novel revolves around Montgomery Brewster, a young man who inherits one million dollars from his rich grandfather. Shortly after, a rich uncle who hated Brewster's grandfather (a long-held grudge stemming from the grandfather's disapproval of the marriage of Brewster's parents) also dies. The uncle will leave Brewster seven million dollars, but only under the condition that he keeps none of the grandfather's money. Brewster is required to spend every penny of his grandfather's million within one year, resulting in no assets or property held from the wealth at the end of that time. If Brewster meets these terms, he will gain the full seven million; if he fails, he remains penniless.

Brewster finds that spending so much money within the course of a year is incredibly difficult under the strict conditions imposed by his uncle's will. Brewster is required to demonstrate business sense by obtaining good value for the money he spends, limiting his donations to charity, his losses to gambling, and the value of his tips to waiters and cab drivers. Moreover, Brewster is sworn to secrecy, and cannot tell anyone why he is living to excess. Working against him are his well-meaning friends, who try repeatedly to limit his losses and extravagance even as they share in his luxurious lifestyle.

Brewster's challenge is compounded by the fact that his attempts to lose money through stock speculation and roulette prove to increase his funds rather than decrease them. He throws large parties and balls, and charters a cruise lasting several months to Europe and Egypt for his large circle of friends and employees; the press lampoons him as a spendthrift. Despite his loose purse strings, Brewster repeatedly demonstrates a strong moral character. At one point, he uses his funds to bail out a bank to save his landlady's account, despite risking his eligibility for the will. At another, he jumps overboard to save a drowning sailor from his cruise even as his rich friends choose not to.

Brewster's would-be wife Barbara Drew turns down his marriage proposal early in the year, believing him to be financially irresponsible and bound to a life of poverty, and his attempts to win her back repeatedly fail as his attention is entirely absorbed by the requirement to spend so much money. At the conclusion of the year, he succeeds in spending the last of his funds, which he has meticulously documented, and confesses his love to another woman, Peggy Gray, who has been sympathetic to his lifestyle despite knowing nothing about his challenge. Tragedy strikes the night before the deadline, as his lawyers informed him that the executor of his uncle's will has vanished after liquidating all of the assets. Brewster convinces himself that he is doomed to poverty, but marries Peggy Gray, who accepts him despite the lack of wealth. Shortly after the wedding, the executor of his uncle's will arrives to inform him that he has successfully met the challenge and that he has come to deliver the money to Brewster in person.

Film, theatrical, television, and radio adaptations

Stage adaptation

The novel was adapted into a Broadway play of the same name by Winchell Smith and Byron Ongley. The play debuted at the New Amsterdam Theatre on December 31, 1906.

Opening Night Principal Cast[2]

  • Edward Abeles – Montgomery Brewster
  • Leslie Bassett – Fred Gardner
  • Gaston Bell – Horace Pettingill
  • Cecile Breton – Trixie Clayton
  • George Clare – Rawles
  • Jack Devereaux – Subway Smith
  • Sumner Gard – Archibald Vanderpool
  • Willard Howe – Frank Bragdon
  • Nestor Lennon – Colonel Drew
  • Emily Lytton – Mrs. Dan De Mille
  • Arthur Morris – Thomas
  • Olive Murray – Barbara Drew
  • Josephine Park – Janice Armstrong
  • George Probert – Nopper Harrison
  • Eugene Redding – Monsieur Bargie
  • Albert Sackett – Mr. Grant
  • Joseph Woodburn – Joseph MacCloud

The play was later adapted into a musical, Zip Goes a Million.

Film versions

The novel Brewster's Millions has been adapted into many films:

Title Year Director Brewster Notes
Brewster's Millions 1914 Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar Apfel Edward Abeles Based on the play. Brewster has to spend one million dollars in less than one year to inherit $7 million. Considered a lost film.
Brewster's Millions 1921 Joseph Henabery Roscoe Arbuckle Screenplay by Walter Woods, based on the play. Brewster has to spend $1 million in less than one year to inherit $4 million. Considered a lost film.
Miss Brewster's Millions 1926 Clarence G. Badger Bebe Daniels Screenplay by Monte Brice, Lloyd Corrigan and Harold Shumate, based on the play. Polly Brewster has to spend $1 million in 30 days or less to inherit $5 million. Considered a lost film.
Brewster's Millions 1935 Thornton Freeland Jack Buchanan Screenplay by Douglas Furber and Paul Gangelin. British version where Brewster has to spend 500,000 pound sterling in six months or less to inherit £6 million.
Brewster's Millions 1945 Allan Dwan Dennis O'Keefe Screenplay by Sig Herzig and Wilkie C. Mahoney. Brewster has to spend one million dollars in 60 days or less to inherit $7 million.
Vaddante Dabbu 1954 Y. R. Swamy N.T.Rama Rao This is a Telugu film. Has to spend ₹100,000 in 30 days.
Three on a Spree 1961 Sidney J. Furie Jack Watling Screenplay by Sig Herzig and James Kelley
Babayi-Abbayi 1985 Jandhyala Subramanya Sastry Nandamuri Balakrishna This is a Telugu movie. Has to spend ₹3 million in 30 days.
Brewster's Millions 1985 Walter Hill Richard Pryor Screenplay by Herschel Weingrod and Timothy Harris. Brewster has to spend $30 million in 30 days or less to inherit $300 million; he is given the option to simply take $1 million upfront, but turns it down.
Maalamaal 1988 Kawal Sharma Naseeruddin Shah This Hindi-language version was released in India in 1988. The plot remains the same – spend 30 million Indian rupees in 30 days or less to earn 300 million rupees. It is an obvious scene-by-scene "Indianization" of the 1985 Richard Pryor film with some additional scenes and a few musical production numbers. Maalamaal on IMDb
Arunachalam 1997 Sundar C Rajinikanth An Indian Tamil film based also on the Brewster story, with significant differences from earlier versions, particularly in the first half. Many plotlines are interwoven, but the basic concept, spending ₹300 million in 30 days to inherit ₹30 billion, remains the same.
Tô Ryca! 2016 Pedro Antônio Samantha Schmütz A Brazilian film. As in the Richard Pryor film, Selminha (Little Selma) must spend R$30 million in 30 days to inherit her uncle's fortune of R$300 million without keeping anything or telling anybody.
Hello Mr. Billionaire 2018 Yán Fēi Shen Teng A Chinese film based on Brewster story with numerous, subtle differences to the 1985 version. A key difference being a "test" towards the end of the film to break the rules of spending to save the life of a romantic interest and forfeit the larger inheritance. The benefactor designed the test to be staged near the end of the 30-day test to determine if the money had changed his grandson's compassion for humanity.

Television adaptation

In the TV episode "Punky's Millions," from the animated version of Punky Brewster, Punky and her father Henry on a TV show trying to win the $40 million prize. In order to claim the grand prize, they must spend one million dollars in 48 hours. To make sure that the money would not be spent all at once on something very expensive (e.g., a villa as suggested by one of Punky's friends), a rule states the money cannot be used to buy any single item for more than $10,000. Also, every single item purchased must be donated. When the deadline passes, Punky and Henry seem to have won, but one of Punky's friends, Allen, forgot to spend the 98 cents he got as change when he bought chocolate, so they lose the game. Fortunately, they had been donating their purchases to a local orphanage, and one of the dollars they spent was on a lottery ticket, which wins $100,000 for the orphanage.

Radio adaptation

On February 15, 1937, the Lux Radio Theatre presented a version of the play starring Jack Benny. The show was modified for Benny: the title character in this version is named Jack Benjamin Brewster; and the character opens the play's first scene by playing Benny's theme song, "Love in Bloom", on the violin.

Playing opposite Benny is his real-life wife and the co-star of his long-running radio show, Mary Livingstone. Livingstone plays Brewster's girlfriend, here called Mary Gray.

The casting of Benny as a character who must spend money was considered humorous in itself, as it contrasted sharply with Benny's well-known radio persona as a miser.

See also


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