Laugh and Get Rich

Laugh and Get Rich is a 1931 pre-Code American comedy film, directed by Gregory La Cava, from a screenplay he also wrote with contributions from Douglas MacLean, who also was the associate producer, and Ralph Spence. The film stars Dorothy Lee, Edna May Oliver, Hugh Herbert, and Russell Gleason, and revolves around the antics in a boarding house in the early 1930s, run by Oliver, and the complications caused by her husband.

Laugh and Get Rich
theatrical release poster
Directed byGregory La Cava[1]
Produced byWilliam LeBaron[2]
Written byDouglas MacLean[3]
Ralph Spence (dialogue)
Screenplay byGregory La Cava
StarringEdna May Oliver
Hugh Herbert
Dorothy Lee
Russell Gleason
CinematographyJack MacKenzie[2]
Edited byJack Kitchin[2]
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • March 27, 1931 (1931-03-27) (NYC)[3]
  • April 20, 1931 (1931-04-20) (US)[3]
Running time
72 minutes
CountryUnited States


Sarah Austin (Edna May Oliver) runs a boarding house during the Depression, always on the verge of bankruptcy. Her husband, Joe (Hugh Herbert) is a shiftless person who has never understood the concept of work; he is constantly involving them in get-rich-quick schemes. Their daughter, Alice (Dorothy Lee), has her eyes set on poor young inventor, Larry Owens (Russell Gleason), but her mother wishes she would become involved with Bill Hepburn (John Harron), seemingly from a well-connected family.

Sarah's illusions about Bill, however, are dashed when Bill kidnaps Joe, whom he mistakes for Mr. Pennypacker. Shortly after this, Joe takes Sarah's life savings, which she has hidden in a lamp, and invests it in an oil well, conned into it by one of Sarah's boarders, Mr. Phelps (Robert Emmett Keane). When Sarah finds out, she is furious, so Joe goes out and takes a job as a ditch digger. However, much to everyone's surprise, the oil well actually strikes oil. Believing that they are rich, Sarah and Joe go visit Sarah's sister, Cassie Palfrey (Louise Mackintosh), who lives in an estate on Long Island.

While there, the oil well runs dry, and their newfound wealth evaporates. However, all is not lost, as they find out that one of Joe's inventions, a tire valve, has attracted an investor, and they will be making over $50,000 per year off the invention, a veritable fortune in 1931.


Source:Cast list as per AFI database, and[1][3]


"Board and Room" was the working title of the film during production.[3]


Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times gave the film a good review, calling it, "...a pleasant little comedy of boarding house life, distinguished by the performance of Edna May Oliver as the head of the establishment."[5]

Silver Screen magazine gave it a good, but not great, review, stating the film was "... a nice homey comedy ..." which was "entertaining, but not a laugh riot", and praised Herbert, but were less impressed by Oliver.[6] Photoplay was a bit kinder, complimenting both Herbert and Oliver, and saying that the film was "Good for plenty of laughs", and that audience members would be "... agreeably surprised at the newness of the treatment and gags."[7] Motion Picture Magazine was the most impressed, not only praising Herbert and Oliver, but also Dorothy Lee, John Harron, and Russell Gleason as well. They called the picture, "... one of the best little comedies to happen along in many a celluloid moon."[8]


  1. "Laugh and Get Rich: Technical Details". Retrieved August 18, 2014.
  2. "Laugh and Get Rich, Credits". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on March 6, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  3. "Laugh and Get Rich: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 29, 2014. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  4. Jewell, Richard B.; Harbin, Vernon (1982). The RKO Story. New York: Arlington House. p. 36. ISBN 0-517-546566.
  5. Hall, Mordaunt (March 28, 1931). "Laugh and Get Rich: A Boarding House Farce". The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 8, 2013. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  6. "Talkies in Tabloid: Laugh and Get Rich". Silver Screen. September 1931. p. 66. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  7. "The Shadow Stage: Laugh and Get Rich". Photoplay. May 1931. p. 126. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  8. "The Picture Parade: Laugh and Get Rich". Motion Picture Magazine. June 1931. p. 61. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
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