Once in a Lifetime (1932 film)

Once in a Lifetime is a 1932 American pre-Code comedy film based on Once in a Lifetime by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.[1] The film was produced and distributed by Universal Pictures, directed by Russell Mack and stars Jack Oakie, Sidney Fox and Aline MacMahon.[2]

Once in a Lifetime
Directed byRussell Mack
Produced byCarl Laemmle
Written bySeton I. Miller (adaptation)
Based onplay Once in a Lifetime
by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart
StarringJack Oakie
Sidney Fox
Aline MacMahon
CinematographyGeorge Robinson
Edited byRobert Carlisle
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 2, 1932 (1932-10-02)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States

It is preserved at the Library of Congress.[3]


The immense success of The Jazz Singer, the first all-talking picture, results in the cancellation of a booking for three song-and-dance vaudeville performers: Jerry Hyland, May Daniels and George Lewis. Jerry, convinced that talkies are the future, decides they will head to Hollywood to break into the fledgling movie industry before others get the same notion. May comes up with the idea to open a school of elocution to teach actors how to speak on film. On the train there, May encounters an old friend, Helen Hobart, an influential, nationally syndicated columnist. She offers to put them in touch with Herman Glogauer, the head of a major movie studio. George is smitten with another passenger, aspiring young actress Susan Walker.

They discover the movie world to be an eccentric place. George is unexpectedly appointed by Glogauer as supervisor of production, allowing him to promote Susan's career. Despite his incompetence (or rather because of it), his first picture turns out to be an critical and commercial smash hit, and Susan becomes a star.

Later, a very persuasive salesman gets George to buy 2000 airplanes, which causes Glogauer to fire him. However, air movies become very popular, and George has inadvertently cornered the market. The other studios are desperate to get airplanes from Glogauer at any price, and George is once again considered a genius.



Mordaunt Hall, film critic of The New York Times, gave the film a favorable review, calling it a "merry diversion".[1] He praised all the main performers, as well as ZaSu Pitts as the studio's obtuse receptionist.[1]


  1. Mordaunt Hall (October 29, 1932). "Jack Oakie, Aline MacMahon and Others in a Film of the Hart-Kaufman Satire on Hollywood". The New York Times.
  2. The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films: 1931-40 by The American Film Institute, c.1993
  3. Catalog of Feature Films The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artists Collection at The Library of Congress by The American Film Institute, c.1978

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