James Stewart, Paulette Goddard, and Charles Winninger in Pot o' Gold (1941)


(director: George Marshall; screenwriters: based on a story by Andrew Bennison/Haydn Roth Evans/Robert Brilmayer/Monte Brice/Harry Tugend/Walter DeLeon; cinematographers: Harry Jackson/Hal Mohr; editor: Lloyd Nosler; music: Louis Forbes/Hy Heath/Fred Rose; cast: James Stewart (Jimmy Haskell), Paulette Goddard (Molly McCorkle), Horace Heidt (Himself), Charles Winninger (C.J. Haskell), Mary Gordon (Ma McCorkle), Frank Melton (Jasper Backus); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: James Roosevelt; United Artists; 1941)
“Jimmy Stewart’s worst film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jimmy Stewart’s worst film, according to the actor himself (no argument here). I don’t know if this is the reason, but he enlisted in the service as a pilot after this film. It’s a nonsensical fluff piece based on a story by Andrew Bennison and the slight Capraesque feel good comedy is weakly written by Walter De Leon and a team of writers. Director George Marshall (“Pack Up Your Troubles”/”Destry Rides Again”/”You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man”) never elicits anything funny or worthwhile, while the film tugs along at a plodding pace despite the talented director’s effort to keep things lively.

Pot o’ Gold’s title is derived from a popular at the time NBC radio program in which $1000 was given away every week. The program featured the Horace Heidt Orchestra.

It tells of harmonica player, music lover James Hamilton Haskell (James Stewart), a second-generation owner of a struggling music store, who rejects an offer to go into business with his uncle, Charles J. Haskell (Charles Winninger), a wealthy health food manufacturer and sponsor of a weekly radio program, “Haskell’s Happiness Hour.” We soon learn that C.J. hates music and frets that his factory is located within earshot of Mom McCorkle’s (Mary Gordon) boardinghouse, which houses Horace Heidt (Himself) and his loud band. When debts force Jimmy’s music store to close, he visits his uncle to ask if the offer still holds and along the way bumps into Mom’s pretty daughter Molly (Paulette Goddard), a singer with Horace’s band, and becomes taken with her.

The dull tale has Jimmy getting a free room in the boarding house after he accidentally hits his uncle with a tomato, after his uncle attempts to stop the loud music. Somehow, in this facile story, Jimmy and his uncle end up in jail together and when released Jimmy subs for his hoarse throat uncle on his radio program. Of course Molly doesn’t know that Jimmy is related to the enemy, C.J., but figures it out after listening to the radio show. So we have to go through Jimmy showing he cares about the musicians, making the radio show a hit and finally clearing things up with Molly so they can marry. It’s a lot worse than how I described it, as I chose to leave out most of the sordid details in this minor film and not complain about all the wooden performances–especially Goddard’s.

If you’re looking for reasons to see this film, try the following: 1) You’re a Jimmy Stewart completist. 2) Stewart sings. 3) The producer is James Roosevelt, FDR’s oldest son. 4) You’re so depressed you’re willing to watch any movie that hints at being cheerful.