Tag Archives: W. C. Fields

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Directed by Edward F. Cline
Starring W.C. Fields
Gloria Jean
Margaret Dumont
Franklin Pangborn
Leon Errol
Music by Charles Previn & Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Editing by Arthur Hilton
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date 10 October 1941
Running time 71 min.
Country U.S.
Language English

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a quite surreal film in that W.C. Fields is playing himself trying to pitch a film. It has quite a few funny scenes but is a little uneven. The bits where he’s discussing his script with Franklin Pangborn are amusing but the movie that Fields had envision is quite weird (I guess that’s the point!).

I could compare this film to a Marx Bros. film as it mixes music with the comedy. In Never Give A Sucker An Even Break Fifteen year old Gloria Jean sings some light operatic songs, but unlike those types of songs in the Marx’s films, these musical interludes are not completely boring, which I guess is testament to the fact that Ms. Jean had some semblance of a personality, which can rarely be said for the singers in the Marx films. The songs here are just as mind-numblingly boring as those in Marx Bros. films, but in one scene in particular Ms. Jean actually pokes fun at this fact by showing how bored she is with the song. There is so much other funny stuff going on in the background that you don’t have to hit the fast forward button. Considering she was so young and seemed to be a talented actress and singer, I wonder why she did not appear in many more films.

Another comparison to the Marx Bros. is that Fields tries to woo Margaret Dumont in order to become wealthy. This is part of his script for his fictional film. Unlike Groucho though, Fields comes to his senses when he sees just what he’s gotten himself into. Another contrast here is that Ms. Dumont really isn’t playing the straight man to Fields here and that she is in on the joke. Perhaps Fields included this element to satirize the Marx Bros. films? He does mention Groucho by name in an early scene.

This is a funny yet weird film. The parts that are not Fields’ fantasy seem to work the best.
Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Volume 2 with The Man On The Flying Trapeze, You’re Telling Me, The Old Fashioned Way and Poppy. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $43.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


The Dentist

Directed by Leslie Pearce
Produced by Mack Sennett
Written by W.C. Fields
Starring W.C. Fields
Babe Kane
Arnold Gray
Elise Cavanna
Dorothy Granger
Cinematography John W. Boyle
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date September 9, 1932
Running time 22 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Dentist is an early talky by W. C. Fields. It’s a series of funny sketches joined together so that the film reaches the 20 minute mark. There is only a slight plot about Fields being a dentist who firstly plays golf, then returns to see a couple of patients in his surgery. There is also another plot with his daughter wanting to marry the iceman but Fields being against it. There are a couple of good chuckles to be had, especially when an errant golf ball from Fields hits another golfer on the head. (This is always funny!)


She Done Him Wrong

Directed by Lowell Sherman
Produced by William LeBaron
Written by Mae West (play Diamond Lil)
Harvey F. Thew & John Bright
Starring Mae West
Cary Grant
Owen Moore
Gilbert Roland
Noah Beery
Music by John Leipold (uncredited)
Cinematography Charles Lang
Editing by Alexander Hall
Studio Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date January 27, 1933
Running time 66 min
Country United States

I’ve always wanted to see this film for a couple of reasons. Firstly I do like Mae West’s double entendres and one liners and secondly we get to see a young Cary Grant. Here he is the one who is being lusted after by West, which is strange since in years to come it would be Grant who was the older man lusting after and getting the younger woman. It’s odd to see the roles reversed.

Whilst I admit that I enjoy West’s wit I must also admit that she is a bit of a one trick pony in that he sly one liners are the only things she can really do. Worse still she hogs the spotlight so that nothing of interest occurs when she is on the screen.

When compared to other comedians of the 1930s West’s act isn’t as interesting. W. C. Fields, who West is often compared with, had some amazing one liners in his films too but he also was pretty good with the slapstick stuff and could share the spotlight with others who were funny too, while Groucho Marx had his brothers to play off, even if we had to endure a boring Harpo harp recital or Chico putting the audience to sleep with his piano playing. West too insists on showing off her non-comedic talent when she decides to sing… and it is excruciating. Unlike when Groucho sings West is serious and is not doing it for laughs so it makes it even more intolerable. I guess that Mae wanted to sing and no one had the guts to say no?!

The film is interesting and does feature Mae reciting he most well known line to Grant, “Why don’t you come up sometime and see me?”, but the film could have been better in my opinion.


You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man

Directed by George Marshall
Edward F. Cline (uncredited)
Produced by Lester Cowan
Written by W. C. Fields (as “Charles Bogle”) (story)
Everett Freeman (screenplay)
Richard Mack (screenplay)
George Marion Jr. (screenplay)
Starring W. C. Fields
Edgar Bergen
Charlie McCarthy
Cinematography Milton R. Krasner
Editing by Otto Ludwig
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date February 18, 1939
Running Time 76 min.

This was quite a good W. C Fields comedy film. It features a lot of classic lines from Fields, as well as some good slapstick pratfalls, but also features a continuation of his wonderful rivalry with a ventriloquists’ puppet.

It’s a bit hard to explain but for many years Fields had a radio rivalry with Charlie McCarthy, Edgar Bergen’s (Candice’s father) dummy. It’s strange indeed to think of someone doing a ventriloquist act on the radio, but that is where this funny rivalry was created. Both Fields and Bergen have some great moments to themselves in the brief moments when they are in a scene together there is some really good chemistry and funny jokes.

You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection with The Bank Dick, My Little ChickadeeInternational House and It’s A Gift. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $46.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


My Little Chickadee

Directed by Edward F. Cline
Produced by Lester Cowan
Written by Mae West & W.C.Fields
Starring Mae West
W.C.Fields
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography Joseph A. Valentine
Editing by Edward Curtiss
Distributed by Universal
Release date 15 March 1940
Running time 83 min
Country USA
Language English

W. C. Fields and Mae West were two of the sharpest tongues in Hollywood with only Groucho Marx rivalling them for delivering the best one liners and double entendres. Whilst they do get a few great zingers into My Chickadee and there are a few laugh out loud moments, this film feels a bit odd. I think it’s because of the lack of chemistry between Fields and West. Whilst there are rumours of both the stars not liking each other and that they let their egos run rampant, trying to one up each other with the best lines, I don’t think any of this has been truly confirmed. I did read that Mae was a bit unhappy with Fields’ unprofessionalism and how he lived his drunken gimmick, but she still admired his comic abilities.

The film isn’t Fields’ or West’s best but it’s still a damn sight better than most other comedies.
My Little Chickadee is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection with The Bank Dick, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man, International House and It’s A Gift. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $46.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


International House


Directed by A. Edward Sutherland
Produced by Emanuel Cohen Written by Neil Brant
Starring W.C. Fields
Bela Lugosi
George Burns
Gracie Allen
Cab Calloway
Rose Marie
Peggy Hopkins Joyce
Music by Ralph Rainger
Howard Jackson
John Leipold
Al Morgan
Cab Calloway
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) May 27, 1933
Running time 70 minutes
Country  United States

This is a relic of a movie featuring W.C. Fields. Basically the film is just an excuse to see the various performers from radio and vaudeville perform skits, most of which would have been quite dated even in 1933. The only real interests in the film lies in Fields’ performance, that of Burns and Allen and of Bela Lugosi turning in a comic part. Fields gets in a few quite dirty lines (this was made pre-code) and Allen plays the dumb nurse part well, while Lugosi’s portrayal of a jealous Russian general who generally causes chaos shows that he could play a comic role as well as horror. The only other point of interest is Cab Calloway singing the song Reefer Man and him saying that his  bass player is ”high on weed’. The movie is a bit of a nostalgic curiosity but it’s not that funny.

International House is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection with The Bank Dick, My Little Chickadee, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man and It’s A Gift. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $46.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


It’s A Gift

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Produced by William LeBaron
Written by Jack Cunningham,
Story Charles Bogle (Fields)
Starring W. C. Fields
Kathleen Howard
Jean Rouverol
Julian Madison
Tammany Young
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date November 17, 1934
Running time 73 min.
It’s A Gift is a really funny W. C. Fields comedy from 1934, and it surprisingly holds up well when viewed with 21st century eyes. It’s A Gift is less well-known than some of Fields’ other films such as The Bank Dick, but there are still a few laughs to be had while watching the film.

In the film Fields plays Harold Bissonette (pronounced Bisonay), a grocery store owner with a nagging wife and two rotten children. After the death of his uncle he decides to sell up his store and more to California to become an orange grower. The plot however is little more than a vehicle for Fields’ gags, many of which he had honed to perfection after years spent on the vaudeville circuit.

I think that the reason why I find the film so humourous is that I can empathise with Fields in some of the situations he finds himself in. Most married men know what it’s like to be nagged by their wife at times, and would find Fields portrayal as a henpecked husband quite amusing. Similarly most of us adults know just how annoying children can be and rather than show them as sweet little angels they are seen here as being the bratty little monsters that some children really are. This is why the gags are so successful for Fields and his henpecked husband character is much funnier to me than the obnoxious, drunken wise ass that he would play in later films. As well as a few good slapstick moments there are some really great one-liners from Fields that had me laughing quite a bit.

It’s A Gift is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection with The Bank Dick, My Little Chickadee, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man and International House . This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $46.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


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