Tag Archives: Margaret Dumont

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…

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A Night At The Opera

Directed by Sam Wood
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Written by Story: James Kevin McGuinness
Screenplay: George S. Kaufman & Morrie Ryskind
Uncredited: Al Boasberg & Buster Keaton
Starring Groucho Marx
Chico Marx
Harpo Marx
Margaret Dumont
Music by Herbert Stothart
Editing by William LeVanway
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Nov. 15, 1935 (Los Angeles)
Dec. 6, 1935 (New York)
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Many people say that A Night At The Opera is the Marx Bros. finest film, although I do prefer Duck Soup. It was their first film for MGM and also the first without Zeppo. It also features some of the best one-liners in all of filmdom including Chico’s “You can’t fool me, there ain’t no sanity clause.” It also features a lot of Groucho quipping with his favourite straight man Margaret Dumont and Harpo’s silly slapstick. It also features the stateroom scene, one of the funniest in all of their movies.

Unfortunately this was also one of the first Marx Bros. films to feature a romantic sub-plot and the boring musical numbers that plagued the latter Marxist films. These are usually just some really boring 1930s ballads sung by some boring crooner or diva who are supposed to be the hero and heroine of the film. Anytime that someone who is not named Groucho Marx starts singing in a Marx Bros. film makes me grab the remote control for the DVD player. The same applies when Chico Marx starts playing the piano or Harpo Marx starts playing the harp. It takes a lot of effort to endure these pieces of tedium but the comedy on the other side is usually very funny and rewards the viewer with lots of laughs.

It is interesting to note that the silent film comedian Buster Keaton (old Stoneface) wrote for this movie but is uncredited for it.