I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a WC Fields Review. What prompted it was that I saw an article in the paper listing some of the best DVD gifts for the season, one of the gifts was an 18 movie WC Fields collection. The collection I have has only 10 films, the 8 additional films are not really W.C. Fields movies, they are movies with WCF playing a character (like his role as Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland) or WCF shorts that are part of an anthology film. Anyways back to the movie at hand.
Unlike the last WCF movie I reviewed (“The Old Fashion Way”), this is a return to the more standard Fields Format, i.e. thin plot used to strand together half a dozen comedic sketches, largely based on drinking, spoonerisms, and slapstick comedy. The opening, about two robber’s braking into the house and getting drunk off of Fields’ homemade liquor, would have made a great short, as would the parking ticket sketch. They could have fit into any of his films (usual WCF format films) just as easily.
Don’t let the title fool you, you may think it’s more literal given Field’s penchant for performance art, juggling, etc, and that he seems to be the quintessential ring master for a traveling circus, however this movie has nothing to do with any of that. The title is a metaphor, the flying trapeze is life and W.C. Fields is the man, doing his best to stay on it while swinging from situation to situation. It might have been interesting to see Fields doing acrobatics as part of a traveling circus, however given the heavy nature of the traveling circus narrative, maybe it’s a good thing this is not the direction the movie went in.
It’s not Fields’ best movie, it’s not as warm as “It’s a Gift” or “You’re Telling Me” and not as risqué as the pre-code “International House” but it’s still pretty good, and worth watching as part of the Fields cannon.