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You Can't Buy Everything


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Drama/Romance, USA, 1934, 82 min.

Synopsis In 1893, Hannah Bell, a rich, eccentric New York widow, places her young son Donny, who has fractured his knee, in the charity ward of the East Side Children's Clinic because she believes that the doctors will overcharge her if they know that she is wealthy. Later that day, Hannah sees a newspaper article announcing the appointment of John Burton to the post of Knickerbocker Bank vice-president and, without revealing her reasons, rushes to the bank to withdraw all of her money in protest. Hannah then is visited in her modest walk-up apartment by longtime friend Kate Farley, a noted philanthropist, who convinces her to donate $500 to the needy children's clinic. While soliciting the funds, Kate alludes to Hannah's past romance with John Burton and her subsequent unhappy marriage to a fortune hunter, but Hannah hotly refuses to discuss either man with her friend. In 1904, after Donny graduates from Princeton University, Hannah, whose wealth has steadily increased, informs her son that he must abandon his dream of becoming a writer and take a job at the bank where she has invested her fortune. Two years later, Kate confides in Dr. Lorimer, the head of the children's clinic, her concern about Hannah's growing eccentricity and her excessive maternal hold over Donny. Convinced that Hannah's mental health will improve if she confronts her painful romantic past with Burton, Kate arranges with Dr. Lorimer to bring Hannah and the now widowed Burton together at her Newport, Rhode Island estate. Although Kate and Dr. Lorimer's scheme to reunite the formerly engaged couple on Kate's yacht backfires when Hannah refuses to board the boat, Donny meets Elizabeth, Burton's grown daughter, there and instantly falls in love. Later, Hannah discovers Kate's reunion plan and, denouncing both her and Burton, leaves Newport in a huff. In spite of his mother's attitudes, Donny courts Elizabeth and, after promising her that he will stand up to Hannah, proposes marriage. When Hannah learns of Donny's engagement, she storms into Burton's bank office and accuses him of trying to get her money through Elizabeth. Although Hannah threatens to cut off Donny's money, Burton alludes to Hannah's father's legacy of greed and refuses to interfere with the marriage. Then while Hannah watches from a distance, Donny and Elizabeth enjoy a lavish church wedding and leave for an extended honeymoon in Europe. By the time they return to America, Wall Street is in the midst of a financial panic, and Burton's bank is approaching insolvency. To save his bank, Burton offers five million dollars of his own railroad stock as collateral against a "repayment on demand" loan. To his surprise, Hannah agrees to lend him the money but, after his bank business is secure, demands immediate repayment. When Donny hears of Hannah's finagling, he denounces his mother as a cruel and heartless miser. After Hannah confesses that she married Donny's father only to spite Burton, who had left her without explanation at the altar, Donny tells her that Burton abandoned her because her father had tried to force him to sign a pre-nuptial agreement that stipulated that he could not touch any of the Bell money. Dazed by Donny's rejection and the revelation about her father, Hannah contracts pneumonia and is taken in by Kate. Before leaving for a journalism job in San Francisco, Donny is alerted to Hannah's condition and, with Elizabeth, rushes to her bedside. There, a repentant Hannah, whose condition has improved, admits to maternal jealousy and apologizes to both Donny and Elizabeth. Reunited with her son, Hannah then ends her grudge against Burton, who reveals to Donny and Elizabeth that the widow has generously returned all of his railroad stock.


Directed by Charles Reisner  

Starring May Robson, Jean Parker, Lewis Stone, Mary Forbes, Reginald Mason, more...

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