Thursday, October 7, 2010
IT'S A GIFT (1934), THE BANK DICK (1940), YOU CAN'T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN (1939)
I've just finishing watching five films out of the W. C. Fields collection: It's a Gift, The Bank Dick, International House,You Can't Cheat an Honest Man and My Little Chickadee. Two of these films are in the 1001 movie book: It's a Gift and The Bank Dick.
#1 It's a Gift is my favorite Fields film and I admit I was a little wary of seeing it again for fear of being disappointed, as I haven’t seen it in many years. But I'm glad to report that it does hold up for me and would be the first Fields film I would recommend to anyone. The long scene where Fields is trying to get some sleep on his front porch and is constantly being interrupted by everything is a great comic scene. Baby Leroy floods his store with Molasses and a sign has to be put up that says "Closed on account of Molasses." I like this a lot for some reason. Best of all is the interactions between Fields, as the henpecked husband, and Kathleen Howard as the domineering wife.
Censorship watch: Fields cursing thinly disguised as "Shades of Bacchus", "Mother of Pearl,” or "Godfrey Daniels."
#2 The Bank Dick is a much wilder Fields vehicle, which I don't like as much as It's a Gift, but also has its share of fine comic moments.Some of Fields' improvised rants are the best parts of the film. And who wouldn't want to go to a bar tended by wayward stooge Shemp Howard?
Censorship Watch: That same bar is named the Black Pussy. How did the censors miss this little joke?
#3 International House is about a world exposition featuring a 1933 television prototype, which is an interesting concept in itself.
And features an eclectic cast that John Waters would have been proud of: Fields, Bela Lugosi,Burns and Allen, Cab Calloway, Rose Marie, Rudy Vallee and Peggy Hopkins Joyce as herself and remind me who Peggy Hopkins Joyce is again?
Censorship Watch: How did Cab Calloway get away with his song Reefer Man even in pre-code Hollywood?
Lyrics: Have you ever met that funny reefer man?
He smokes a reefer he gets high, and he files to the sky. That funny, funny, funny Reefer Man.
#4You Can't Cheat an Honest Man-Many funny moments here as well, many featuring Fields's barbs with dummy Charlie McCarthy. I also really enjoyed watching Fields as the blue-collar circus owner at a high society house for his daughter's wedding. I like this one enough to add to the 1001 movie list.
My favorite line in the movie is when Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy are staring at Fields's beautiful daughter in disbelief that Fields was able to contribute to the procreation of someone that attractive.
Edgar: I can’t figure it out.
Charlie: I must read up on evolution sometime.
Censorship Watch: Hey, I'm a Fields fan, but I could have done without the scene where he takes off his shirt.
#5 My Little Chickadee. The famous pairing of Fields and Mae West has its moments, but really wasn't as good as maybe it could have
been. Part of the problem was certainly the fact that the two stars didn't get along and rewrote each other's scenes.
Censorship Watch: Everything Mae West says could easily be misconstrued. But that was the point, eh?
W. C. Fields by Nicholas Yanni, Pyramid Books, 1976
A Statue I painted of W. C. Fields, bought at an Exxon station 1985.