Brewster's Millions (1985 film)

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Brewster's Millions
Promotional film poster
Directed byWalter Hill
Written by
Based onBrewster's Millions
by George Barr McCutcheon
Produced by
CinematographyRic Waite
Edited by
  • Freeman A. Davies
  • Michael Ripps
Music byRy Cooder
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 22, 1985 (1985-05-22)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million[1]
Box office$45.8 million

Brewster's Millions is a 1985 American comedy film directed by Walter Hill. The film stars Richard Pryor, John Candy, Lonette McKee, Stephen Collins, and Hume Cronyn. The screenplay by Herschel Weingrod and Timothy Harris was based on the 1902 novel of the same name by George Barr McCutcheon. It is the seventh film based on the story.


Monty Brewster is a Minor League Baseball pitcher with the Hackensack Bulls. He and his best friend Spike Nolan, the Bulls' catcher, are arrested after a post-game bar fight. A man named J. B. Donaldo offers to post their bail if they will come to New York City with him. At the Manhattan law office of Granville & Baxter where Donaldo works, Brewster is told by executor Edward Roundfield that his recently deceased great-uncle Rupert Horn, whom he has never met, has left him his entire $300 million fortune. Though he must complete a challenge with several conditions.

Brewster can choose to receive $1 million upfront or attempt to inherit the whole estate by spending $30 million in 30 days. In the former case, the law firm owners George Granville and Norris Baxter will become the executor of the estate, collecting a fee for performing this service and dividing the remainder among several charities. In the latter case, Brewster may not own any assets that are not already his at the end of the 30 days. He must get value for the services of anyone he hires, he may not give it away (except for 5% in gambling losses and 5% to charity) nor may he willfully damage anything bought with the money. Finally, he must keep it secret. If he fails to meet all terms, he forfeits any remaining balance and inherits nothing. Brewster decides to take the $30 million challenge, and Angela Drake, a paralegal from the law firm, is assigned to accompany him and keep track of his spending.

A copy of the famous Inverted Jenny appears in one of the film's gags.

Brewster, who has never earned more than $11,000 a year, rents an expensive hotel suite at the Plaza Hotel, hires personal staff on exorbitant salaries and places bad gambling bets. However, Spike makes good investments, earning Brewster money. Realizing that he is making no headway, Brewster decides to run for mayor of New York City and throws most of his money at a protest campaign urging a vote for "none of the above." The two major candidates threaten to sue Brewster for his confrontational rhetoric, but they settle out of court for several million dollars. Brewster then hires the New York Yankees for a three-inning exhibition against the Bulls, with himself as the pitcher. He is forced to end his protest campaign when he learns that he is leading in the polls as a write-in candidate; the job carries an annual salary of $60,000, which is considered an asset under the terms of the will. Blowing his last $38,000 on a party after the game, Brewster becomes fed up with money and is heartbroken that Spike, Angela, and others around him do not understand his actions.

On the final day, he finds that the sycophantic treatment he received from his entourage is gone. With him and Spike having gone their separate ways, Brewster makes his way to the law office. Having withdrawn from the election, he learns that the city voted "None of the Above," forcing another election in which none of the previous candidates are running.

Warren Cox, a junior lawyer from the law firm and Angela's fiancé, has been bribed by Granville and Baxter to ensure that Brewster fails to spend the entire $30 million. Moments before time expires, Cox hands Brewster some money previously thought to have been spent and informs him he is not broke. Shortly before Brewster signs, Angela learns of the plot and reveals it to him. Brewster punches Cox, who threatens to sue and declines Brewster's offer of the money as compensation. Realizing that he will need a lawyer, Brewster pays the money to Angela as a retainer. With the transaction completed and all of the money now gone, Brewster fulfills the terms of the will and inherits the entire $300 million. Roundfield plans to have an investigation on Cox, Granville, and Baxter's actions. While leaving with Angela, Brewster states to Cox that he'll see him in the funny papers.



In 1982, the screen rights to the novel were acquired by Lawrence Gordon Productions.[1] Peter Bogdanovich was the original director of the adaptation and had planned to include it among the six independent pictures he scheduled for 1983. His version was reported as being similar to Allan Dwan's 1945 adaptation.[1]

The project remained in pre-production limbo for nearly two years until Frank Price, the new president at Universal, greenlit it to be the first production under his guidance.[2] By then, Bogdanovich was no longer involved and Walter Hill was chosen to direct.[1] He had never made a comedy before, but had made the successful 48 Hrs. which featured comic scenes and a comic lead, Eddie Murphy. The script was written by the writers of Murphy's Trading Places.[3]

"I'm always making westerns," Hill said. "Whether it's a movie that takes place in the future... or an action- adventure like 48 Hrs., what I'm really doing is making cowboy movies.... I like westerns because everything is very clear in them. 'I like movies in which the story line is simple and straightforward and the characters are confronted with issues of life and death. But Hollywood has decided that people don't like westerns anymore, so I have to make these other movies and pretend they're not westerns... My idea of a good movie is to take very clearly defined characters and put them in the highest possible jeopardy and then see what happens," Hill said.[4]

Hill said Richard Pryor "didn't believe that he was funny unless he took drugs, and he believed that if he took drugs he would die. Also, he had money problems, of course, so he had to work and take jobs and make lots of money. So it was difficult, but I liked Richard very much."[5]

The Hackensack Bulls' baseball park was a set from the TV series Bay City Blues, formerly located at the LADWP Valley Generating Station in Sun Valley, California.[6]

Princess Anne visited the set during filming as part of her U.S. tour.[7]

Walter Hill later said he purposefully made the film "to improve his bank account and success quotient".[8]


The film received mixed to negative reviews. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 35% based on 23 reviews, with an average score of 4.90/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "With Richard Pryor's trademark ribald humor tamped down, Brewster's Millions feels like a missed opportunity to update a classic story."[9] On Metacritic, the film received a score of 37 based on 13 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[10]

The staff review in Variety said bluntly: "It's hard to believe a comedy starring Richard Pryor and John Candy is no funnier than this".[11] Janet Maslin, in her review for The New York Times, called the film "a screwball comedy minus the screws" which "does nothing to accommodate Mr. Pryor's singular comic talents". Director Walter Hill, she said, did not understand "the advantages of screwball timing," and the film's slow pace and lack of style gives it "a fatuous artificiality". She went on to praise the film's supporting cast, including John Candy, but said that the "flat" screenplay forces Candy to repeat himself.[12]

Walter Hill later called the movie "an aberration in the career line" being his only flat out comedy.[13] He added that "whatever [the film's] deficiencies, I think the wistful quality was there. I was happy about that. The picture did well and made money."[14]


  1. ^ a b c d "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ Film Clips: James Bond Flavor to 'El Norte' London, Michael. Los Angeles Times March 16, 1984: i1.
  3. ^ Hill, Walter (August 23, 1984). "Saddled with an obsession". The Guardian. p. 11.
  4. ^ Lyman, Rick (June 3, 1984). "No Matter What the Film Setting, This Director Still Makes Westerns". Philadelphia Inquirer. p. I.2.
  5. ^ Hopwell, John; Lang, Jamie (October 11, 2016). "Walter Hill: 'Don't Feel Sorry for Film Directors'". Variety.
  6. ^ Jeff Meyers (June 25, 1989). "BYE-BYE BLUEBIRD : End at Hand for Sun Valley Film Set and Home to Amateur Baseball Teams". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 8, 2013.
  7. ^ FILM CLIPS: OZ CALLS ALL THE SHOTS IN MUPPET FILM FILM CLIPS: 'MANHATIAN' COMES TO L.A. London, Michael. Los Angeles Times July 11, 1984: g1.
  8. ^ Director Hill puts extra dimension in Hollywood themes Thompson, Anne. Chicago Tribune June 17, 1988: GL.
  9. ^ "Brewster's Millions (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  10. ^ "Brewster's Millions (1985)". Metacritic. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  11. ^ Staff (December 31, 1984). "Brewster's Millions". Variety. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  12. ^ Janet Maslin (May 22, 1985). "FILM: PRYOR IN REMAKE OF 'BREWSTER'S MILLIONS'". The New York Times. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  13. ^ Action man with an eye for character Dwyer, Michael. The Irish Times (Dublin) January 13, 1989: 14.
  14. ^ "Interview with Walter Hill Chapter 7" Directors Guild of Australia accessed June 12, 2014

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