Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Something Always Happens (1934)

British Film Institute

Main image of Something Always Happens (1934)
35mm, 69 minutes, black & white
DirectorMichael Powell
Production CompanyWarner Brothers First National Productions
Executive ProducerIrving Asher
ScreenplayBrock Williams
PhotographyBasil Emmott

Cast: Ian Hunter (Peter Middleton); Nancy O'Neil (Cynthia Hatch); Peter Gawthorne (Benjamin Hatch); Johnny Singer (Billy); Muriel George (Mrs Badger, the landlady)

Show full cast and credits

A poor orphan and a rich heiress help a happily unemployed car salesman settle down and become a success in the petrol station business.

Show full synopsis

Something Always Happens, a comedy where authority figures get taken down a peg or two while the poor get rich quick, neatly encompasses many of the recurring themes of Depression-era cinema in 1930s Britain. In fact most of the 23 low budget films Michael Powell directed between 1931 and 1936 focus on money and class in some way. A third element, which obliquely combines the two, is hypergamy, marriage to a person of a class higher than one's own, which appears in Night of the Party (1934) and Her Last Affaire (1935), but is nicely reversed in Something Always Happens.

The film tries to have its cake and eat it, its amiable but lackadaisical hero (Ian Hunter), blissfully unconcerned by his lack of money or prospects, eventually still becoming hugely rich. His seemingly imperturbable character prefigures the one Hunter would play in Lazybones (1935), where once again he has to prove himself by getting a steady job and making a success of it. This foregrounds the aspirational tendencies of most moviegoers of the time, showing that even those without money can become a success through perseverance and ingenuity

The nexus between high and low society had already been ingeniously explored by Powell in Rynox (1931), in which the rich Benedik and the working-class ruffian Marsh aren't just two sides of the same coin, but actually turn out to be the same person, part of a complicated scheme to save Benedik's ailing company. Brock Williams' tightly structured screenplay for Something Always Happens goes out of it way to draw parallels between rich and poor, young and old, as dialogue and actions are repeated or developed in adjacent scenes, constantly juxtaposing contrasting situations and characters to draw out the links that tie them together. This is emphasised in the early scene in which the destitute hero pretends to be rich while the fabulously wealthy girl he's just met lets him believe she is a poor shop girl.

This slick, fast moving comedy makes good use of its location filming (especially the market scene) and offers, despite a rather insipid leading lady, a variety of incidental pleasures, such as casting George Zucco (shortly before he decamped for Hollywood) as an Italian restaurant owner. Powell himself remembered it affectionately: "We played it all out for laughs; great speed, excellent dialogue and it was about a chap who never paid for anything".

Sergio Angelini

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Playing solo (3:00)
2. Making pyjamas (2:50)
3. Dining out (3:06)
4. Office chit chat (2:05)
Complete film (1:06:49)
Red Ensign (1934)
Hunter, Ian (1900-1975)
Powell, Michael (1905-1990)
Proud, Peter (1913-1989)
Early Michael Powell