You’ll Never Get Rich is the first of two films that Rita Hayworth made with Fred Astaire. Although Hayworth was gradually getting bigger and bigger roles throughout 1939 through 1941, this was first time she got to combine acting with her first and truest talent of dancing. Hayworth’s parents were a popular dancing team billed as “The Dancing Cansinos,” and performing under her birth name of Magarita Cansino, Hayworth took over for her mother as soon as she was old enough too. “They had me dancing almost as soon as I could walk,” the actress recalled years later. Throughout the Great Depression, she supported her family by dancing on the stage on in bit parts in film. When she was groomed for stardom at Columbia, the focus was on her looks, and it is likely that many of the directors she worked with had no idea that she could dance. Her chemistry with Astaire is simply magical, and despite his much more famous pairing with Ginger Rogers, Astaire later recalled Hayworth as the best dancing partner of his career. When Hayworth’s character gets miffed at Astaire and storms out of a nightclub, it is also clear that she is a better actress than Rogers.
Hayworth plays Sheila, a dancer in a show currently in rehearsals under the director Robert Curtis (Astaire). The womanizing owner of the theater, played by New Yorker writer and occasional actor Robert Benchley, has a thing for Sheila and buys her an engraved diamond bracelet. When his wife discovers the bracelet, he tries to convince her that it is not a gift from himself, but rather from Robert, and then uses his influence to force Robert into a charade to allay his wife’s suspicions. Unbeknown to either of them, Sheila has a crush on Robert, and is furious when she learns that it is all an act. Meanwhile, Robert is drafted into the Army and in boot camp realizes that he is in love with Sheila. The plot is no great shakes, but with any Astaire film, the story is just something to sit through while waiting to get to the dance numbers and a couple of songs by Cole Porter.