Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss, The (aka Romance and Riches) 1936):

From the Archives:

Alfred Zeisler directed The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss, a British romantic comedy, starring Cary Grant.

It is a remake of the 1920 The Amazing Quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss, based on The Curious Quest, the 1919 novel by E. Phillips Oppenheim.

The film was issued in the US in 1937 under the title “The Amazing Adventure” (and then “Romance and Riches”), but edited down to 62 minutes from the original UK running time of 80 minutes.

All circulating copies are of the US edit, but the British Film Institute has archive prints of the 77 minute version.

In London, rich, idle socialite Ernest Bliss (Cary Grant) feels down  for no discernible reason. He sees a doctor, Sir James Aldroyd, who informs him that he is suffering from too much money, that he would be cured if he lived for a year on a few pounds per week.

Bliss is so insulted that he bets for £50,000 with Sir James that he can survive for a year supporting himself solely on whatever he earns, and not touching his inherited millions.

To that extent, he takes the Underground to Stepney Green and rents an attic room. When he falls behind on the rent, the landlady Mrs. Heath is sympathetic to his plight.

Despite no experience, he persuades Mr. Masters to give him a job selling Alpha stoves. After 3 weeks, he has not made a single sale, and Frances Clayton (Mary Brian), Masters’ secretary, informs him the company might close down.

Bliss comes up with an idea to promote the product, and takes £500 of his own money, so the bet is still on, offering free meals to the general public.

A wholesale buyer places trial order for 100 stoves, promising to purchase 40,000 a year if things work out. Masters is delighted and offers Bliss a partnership, but Bliss instead resigns.

When Dr. Alroyd rents a car and hires chauffeur for medical emergency, the latter turns out to be Bliss. Bliss informs him that seven months have elapsed on their bet.

In the end, just as he persuades Frances to accept his proposal, her mother conveys some terrible news. Frances’s sister will die unless taken to winter resort in Switzerland. In desperation, Frances decides to marry Masters for the moneys.

Tracking her down and, Bliss learns why she broke up with him, and succeeds in fixing everything.

The tale is at once old-fashioned–with too many improbable coincidences–but Grant renders a deft characterization, securing laughs rather effortlessly.

Mary Brian may be too harsh for her part, lacking a more feminine softness and sympathy called for by the part.

The critic Stephen Shafer has noted that the plot was intended to appeal to working-class filmgoers, implying that their lives were more fulfilling than those of millionaires.

Cary Grant as Ernest Bliss
Mary Brian as Frances Clayton
Peter Gawthorne as Sir James Alroyd
Henry Kendall as Lord Honiton
Leon M. Lion as Dorrington
John Turnbull as Masters
Arthur Hardy as Crawley
Iris Ashley as Clare
Garry Marsh as The Buyer
Andreas Malandrinos as Giuseppi
Alfred Wellesley as Montague
Marie Wright as Mrs. Heath
Buena Bent as Mrs. Mott
Charles Farrell as Scales