This is supposed to be one of WC Fields best films, but I’m going to have to disagree. This is the fourth Field’s movie I’ve seen from my box set, the last one on the first disc, and of the four I would say it’s the worst.
I’ve seen this movie before, or at least a few parts. I distinctly remembered the scene when The Great McGonagall (Fields’ character in this picture) is woken up in the sleeping car on the train, The scene in which Baby Albert put’s Fields’ pocket watch in a bowl of molasses, and of course the juggling scene (which I’ll discuss in a little bit). As for as the rest of it, I must have been walking in and out of the room when it was on, because I don’t remember the story at all, nor do I remember most of the other scenes.
The movie starts out pretty good, the waking up scene is pretty priceless, but unfortunately the movie is about a down on its luck touring theater show. Given the circumstances these kinds of plots are typically very sad, too sad to be funny, which is a major problem for a WC Fields film.
Spoiler alert, this is the first of the four films to not have Fields end up on top. At the end of the film Field’s overhears his daughter talking to her boyfriend, and realizes that he (being the son of a rich man) can offer her a better life then Fields ever could, and he decides to close the act, to allow his daughter to move on. In the last scene he is scene working as a snake oil salesman, and doing what would appear to be a good job at it, but I prefer the over the top ends that you see in “It’s a Gift” and “Your Telling Me.” it’s considerably a different movie then the others, and not exactly a “bad” movie, just not the kind of movie I like, too heavy for a comedy.
I don’t understand why they make movies about traveling theater groups, circuses, etc. they are there to entertain us on the stage, we aren’t supposed to know what goes on in their personal lives. Because there are so many of these kinds of movies out there, we all know too well what life is like for traveling performers, it’s unfair the way it shreds the illusion they work so hard to give. Traveling Performers were the theme of, what I consider to be, the absolute worst movie I’ve ever seen, “The Imaginarium of Dr. Pernasses” which yes, after further pondering I consider to be even worse than “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and I will go into detail about the Imaginarium sometime soon.
Furthermore it seems very out of character for fields to be performing a temperance play. Sure I understand that the movie is meant to be a period piece, and plays like that were common and popular, but fields pitching a sobriety diatribe? Yes I appreciate the irony, but it comes off as more unbelievable and way out of character. I may be wrong but I think this is the only fields film that I’ve seen thus far where fields does not drink, also out of character.
The Juggling scene is the saving grace of the film. Fields, as you may or may not know, originally started out as a juggler in vaudeville before making it as an actor, he didn’t drink at the time either in order to keep his balance. You can tell in this film that he is struggling a bit with the juggling, but it’s still quite impressive, far beyond anything I’m capable of. for instance: balancing a stick on his foot, then flipping the stick and catching it on the same foot while keeping it balanced. Also the two routines with the cigar boxes are pretty great, I’d like to try it, but I don’t have enough cigar boxes, guess I got to start smoking more.