Rating: Not Rated
W.C. Fields: Behind the Laughter
Full Frame (1.33:1)
Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 6 Hours 13 Minutes
The following is the official description of the DVD:
“W.C. Fields is an American original, the curmudgeonly master of wit and good, mean fun. In this collection of madcap classics, the famously top-hatted Fields unleashes his unique comic zing, proving himself the king of the one-liner. This special DVD collection includes The Bank Dick, My Little Chickadee, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, It’s a Gift and International House. The W.C. Fields Comedy Collection is Fields at his finest, and a must-have for anyone who loves to laugh!
The Bank Dick (1940) Uproarious W.C. Fields is Egbert Souse, a lowly bank guard who divides his time between the Black Pussy Cat Café and his dreaded family. His humdrum life changes when fate leads him to heroism, Hollywood and the good life. Packed with classic routines, including a wacky cops and robbers chase, The Bank Deck was written by Fields himself under the pseudonym of Mahatma Kane Jeeves, and directed by his frequent collaborator, Edward Cline. This “Fields day” of comic brilliance is timeless.
My Little Chickadee (1940) W.C. Fields, in perhaps his most famous role, trades one-liners with he sultry Mae West in this timeless comedy. The reputation of voluptuous Flowerbelle Lee (West) is tarnished when she is seen embracing a masked bandit in her bedroom. Forced to leave town until she can return married and respectable. Flowerbelle boards a train where she meets the incorrigible Guthbert J. Twillie (Fields) and soon accepts his marriage proposal. The hilarious adventures continue as the newlyweds journey on to The Last Gasp saloon in this rollicking romp.
You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man (1939) In one of his most classic roles, W.C. Fields portrays Larson E. Whipsnade, ringmaster of the seedy Circus Giganticus. Whipsnade gets nothing but trouble from his performers, and his daughter (Constance Moore) is torn between a wealthy cad and a charming ventriloquist, played by Edgar Bergen. On the run from the law and dodging creditors, Fields pauses only to unleash his comic wit (“Someone stole the cork from my lunch”) in this three-ring circus of madness, mayhem and ping-pong.
It’s A Gift (1934) Suffering sciatica! Legendary W.C. Fields is up to his brazen antics once again in his portrayal of Harold Bissonette, a bungling, henpecked grocer dreaming of California’s golden sunshine. A small inheritance from his Uncle Bean tempts Bissonette to sell everything and buy an orange ranch sight unseen. Along the way, he matches wits with dogs, children and chicken feathers, snatching success from the jaws of defeat at the last madcap minute.
International House (1933) Comic icons George Burns and Gracie Allen join the one and only W.C. Fields and a galaxy of stars in this madcap farce. When a scientist in China invents a television, everyone around the globe clamors to purchase the rights to the mesmerizing new invention. Silver screen legends Bela Lugosi, Rudy Vallee and Cab Calloway bring down the International House in this fast-paced mix of mirth and merriment.”
These films are not rated.
Despite being a big movie buff, I don’t recall ever having seen W.C. Fields in a film. I’d seen clips of him, quotes from him, and parodies of him, but I’d never seen him in a role in a movie. So by watching this DVD I got a little bit of film education.
After watching these movies, I got the feeling that plot means very little in regards to W.C. Fields. It’s nothing more than something to string bits of his routine together into one big comedy performance. Fields’ characters are typically rude, uncultured, easily annoyed, surly, and drunk. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Homer Simpson. Both characters are idiots. Both are social misfits. Both are drunks. Both wouldn’t mind choking children. Fields is in best form when he’s allowed to cut loose and do his shtick. He’s dubbed “King of the One-Liners” and that definitely seems true.
If you’re a W.C. Fields fan or someone who enjoys vintage comedy films, then you’re going to absolutely love this collection. But these movies also feature cameos by a number of others stars. George Burns and Gracie Allen do their routine in International House. Cab Calloway even sings a song about the “Reefer Man” in that film. Yes, a reefer man. Bela Lugosi even has a brief cameo. Mae West has a role in My Little Chickadee as well. Edgar Bergen is even seen in You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man.
This W.C. Fields collection will be a great gift for fans of film, comedy, or W.C. Fields. While the stories are often weak and childish, the films offer a glimpse into the past and a better look at a legend of comedy.
The only real bonus feature on this DVD is “W.C. Fields: Behind the Laughter”. It’s an hour long feature about Fields from the Biography Channel. It’s an excellent documentary and it features Fields enthusiasts like Ed McMahon, Harry Anderson, and more. You get an open and honest look at Fields and his career as well as his private life.
The Bottom Line:
W.C. Fields and a host of classic cameos make this DVD set worth checking out by fans of Fields, film students, and vintage comedy fans.