Imagine if you will, that you are 25 years old and your wealthy paternal grandfather has died and left you a million dollars. Yet, before you can even begin to think what changes that inheritance will mean in your life, you learn that your even wealthier maternal uncle has died and left you seven million dollars.
The only catch: in order to inherit the seven million you have to spend your grandfather's million dollar inheritance and you have a year to do so. At the end of the year you can have no assets at all or you will lose your uncle's seven million.
Such is the challenge presented to Montgomery Brewster in the 1902 novel Brewster's Millions by George Barr McCutcheon.
Certain other conditions apply. Brewster is not allowed to tell anyone about the terms of his uncle's will. There can be no excessive gifts to charity, no reckless gambling, no indiscriminate giving away of funds, and no endowments to institutions.
What a dilemma to be in! And an adventure I am sure we all would like to have. At first, Brewster figures that he has to spend about $2800 a day over the year and then ups that figure to almost $20,000 a day due to interest being paid by the bank.
His first expenditure is an apartment on which he pays the year's rent - $23,000 - in advance. He pays a decorator $2500 to fix up certain rooms. He then buys furniture to fill those rooms and makes a deal with the dealers that they will buy everything back if he gives up the apartment before the year is up. Then, to try out his new digs, he throws a dinner party for sixty people. It was rumored among the guests that the cost spent on each person was $3000.
If you are keeping track, allowing for the undisclosed cost of the furniture, that still leaves him about $790,000 to go!
That is as far as I have gotten in the spending spree. I can't wait to see how young Brewster manages to deplete his bank account.
The story has been adapted as a stage play and there are no less than ten film versions. Three of them were produced in India. As for any of the American versions, you can stream on Netflix the 1945 film starring Dennis O'Keefe as Brewster. A newer version with the same idea - the 1985 movie starring Richard Pryor as a baseball player - is on YouTube but the quality of the video is not so great.
Now, excuse me. Mr. Brewster and I have some spendin' to do!