My re-introduction to WC Fields. I must’ve either seen him on TV when I was eight, or maybe I just know him through cartoon caricatures. He kinda seems like someone whose routine is best appreciated by an eight-year-old, so maybe I should’ve let it rest. A lightly enjoyable short feature with some poor moments (a stupid-talkin’ negro joke comes right after a penny-pinching shylock joke).

All comedies wrongly think they need a handsome young romantic couple in the cast, so comically alcoholic Fields (named Sousé, heh) has a daughter (Una Merkel of The Bat Whispers) in love with some dude named Og. He also has a shrew wife and hateful mother-in-law, but more important is his bartender (Shemp Howard).

Fields gives some bad car-repair advice, stumbles into a job directing a film, then pretends to have foiled a bank robbery, earning himself a job as a security guard.

“You talkin’ to me?”

He gets bank clerk Og to steal money to invest in a junk-stock scam, then has to spend the rest of the movie diverting an auditor (rain-thin Sturges regular Franklin Pangborn, the same year he did Christmas In July). One of the bank robbers (named Repulsive Rogan, nice) returns and steals the now-valuable stocks in a second holdup, and Fields actually helps stop him this time, earning the respect of his now-wealthy family.

Pangborn, not feeling so well:


He is a pathetic, bad-tempered figure who curses everyone under his alcohol-scented breath—everyone, that is, save Joe the bartender (played by the positively restrained Shemp Howard, the intellectual’s Stooge) who patiently administers Sousé’s medicine. . . And in typical Fields fashion, his fortune is not made through honest effort but by luck, circumstance, and beautifully timed accidents, later turned into heroic epics by Sousé as he exaggerates his role in each. Here and elsewhere, Fields accurately nails the American tendency to inflate one’s importance, especially if money and fame are at stake.

“It’s a great script – feel how much it weighs.”

Seeing how it’s Academy Awards season, I’ve been watching bizarrely oscar-related movies… first Susan Slept Here was narrated by an oscar statue, and now this one, the only movie to be nominated by accident. It seems a song called “Pig Foot Pete” appeared in an Abbott and Costello movie with the same singer (Martha Raye) and songwriters who worked on this movie, which probably accounts for the never-properly-explained discrepancy of “Pig Foot Pete” getting Hellzapoppin’ awarded an oscar nomination. It’s all beside the point, since nothing stood a chance against the song White Christmas from Holiday Inn.

The story involves mistaken identity, Martha Raye (Monsieur Verdoux) running after Mischa Auer (My Man Godfrey) because she believes he’s an eligible millionaire, while he tries to score Jane Frazee – but the movie (based on a fourth-wall-smashing hit broadway play) is really just an excuse for popular comics Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson to riff on everything around them, including the film itself. Goofy-looking Hugh Herbert (whose “hoo-hoo-hoo!” laugh supposedly inspired the creation of Daffy Duck) of Footlight Parade, Sh! The Octopus and The Beautiful Blonde From Bashful Bend, also wanders about making jokes.

Chic and Ole – don’t ask me which is which:

Movies like this (and there aren’t many movies like this) make the phrase “screwball comedy” seem inappropriately applied to such relatively calm, normal films as Bringing Up Baby. Surely the Marx Brothers movies were an influence. I’d like to think that Frank Tashlin, who was working in cartoons at the time this came out, was heavily influenced by its high-energy cartoony gags and unhinged self-reflexivity. Some of the jokes (many of the jokes!) are very bad, but you’ve gotta forgive them because overall the movie is too amusingly nuts to dislike.

Frankenstein’s Monster, about to helpfully toss Martha Raye:

Kevin Lee: “The show-stopper is the much celebrated Lindy Hop sequence involving several Black domestic servants who without warning launch into the most jaw-dropping swing number captured on film.”

Here’s the precursor to that swing number, which is indeed jaw-dropping:

Director Potter would work with all the biggest stars in his other films, and eventually make a sequel to this year’s biggest oscar-winner Mrs. Miniver.

Pretty girls are roasted on a spit in hell – the movie opens with this!

The legal battle of Olsen vs. Johnson vs. Universal Pictures has led to the commercial unavailability of their work for so long that if it finally came out now, in sparkling restored deluxe DVD editions, nobody much would care since they are barely remembered. Good job there, guys.

Martha mooning after Mischa Auer:

NY Times called it “an anarchic collection of unfunny gags,” but then, they also spelled “alittle” as one word.

Once and future stooge Shemp Howard is the film projectionist. I love how he, not the cameraman, can change the framing of the movie by panning to follow women in swimsuits.