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The Pharmacist (1933)

Passed | | Comedy, Short | 21 April 1933 (USA)
A henpecked but stoic pharmacist tries to maintains his precarious balance while dealing with demanding customers and his dysfunctional family.




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Complete credited cast:
Marjorie Kane ...
Priscilla Dilweg (as Babe Kane)
Elise Cavanna ...
Mrs. Grace Dilweg
Cuthbert Smith
Lorena Carr ...
Ooleota Dilweg


A hard-working, hen-pecked pharmacist, harried by a shrewish spouse, dysfunctional family, and demanding clientele, maintains his patience and a stoic optimism by imbibing frequent martinis. His termagant wife and self-absorbed daughters show little appreciation of his efforts to keep his precarious business profitable by selling bootleg liquor under the counter despite the suspicions of the local sheriff. Written by Gabe Taverney (duke1029@aol.com0

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Short


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

21 April 1933 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Buy America  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


WC Fields wears a hat with the top cut out of it in this film, just like the producer Mack Sennett was known to do. Fields does it for "hay fever," but Sennett did it because he thought sunlight was good for preventing hair loss. See more »


[a customer has just bought one postage stamp]
Customer: You got change for a hundred?
Mr. Dilweg: No, no, but thanks for the compliment.
See more »


Featured in America at the Movies (1976) See more »

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User Reviews

A Prescription for Comedy
29 August 2010 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

THE PHARMACIST (Paramount, 1933), directed by Arthur Ripley, the third of the Mack Sennett Star Comedy shorts to feature W.C. Fields (who also scripted), ranks another one of the better and more noteworthy comedy skits originated by Fields from stage to screen. As with his upcoming short, THE BARBER SHOP (1933), with formula repeated and recycled, Fields must contend with dysfunctional family upstairs while attending to business matters downstairs. This time he has two daughters, one constantly on the phone with her beau, Cuthbert, while the other being an overgrown brat of a child hopping about on her pogo stick who stoops to eating the family canary bird when sent away from the dinner table as punishment for her actions. He also has a slightly shrewish wife, effectively played by Elsie Cavanna, best known as Fields' patient victim in his initial Sennett comedy short, THE DENTIST (1932). Overall, a near perfect set-up for a situation comedy.

The slight plot, which takes place in a single day, revolves around the antics set in a small town neighborhood drug store run by pharmacist, Mr. Dilweg (W.C. Fields). After chasing away a couple of kids, one jumping up and down on his scale outside, and passing a couple of old-timers pondering around for three-and-a-half hours on the next move in a checker game inside, Dilweg is called to lunch by his wife (Elsie Cavanna), leading to disciplinary actions with his younger daughter (Babe Kane) and listening to his elder daughter (Lorena Carr) constantly on the telephone. Returning downstairs to attend to business, Dilweg encounters two elderly ladies insisting on speaking only to a woman about their needs; a tough patron wanting to purchase a stamp; a detective investigating if there's liquor on the premises; a shootout between an escaped gunman and the police, and finally Dilweg's surprise encounter with Cuthbert Smith (played by Grady Sutton in his first Fields comedy).

THE PHARMACIST, which looks like a segment taken from a feature length comedy, acquires its share of familiar Fields exchanges, one in particular where daughter (Kane) brawls out, "What's the matter, Pop, don't you love me?" Father, raising his hand towards her, replies in angry tone, "Certainly I love you," and growls to his wife, "She can't tell me I don't love her." Because material such as this worked so well, Fields would reprise his "fatherly love" routine in this latter feature-length comedies: IT'S A GIFT (1934) and THE BANK DICK (1940). Using a straw hat with an open top as his prop and he repeatedly reciting to himself, "Grubbing, Grubbing," is repeated in his fourth and final Sennett short, THE BARBER SHOP (1933). When Fields' performed his routines on radio during the 1940s, one of those used was that from THE PHARMACIST. This skit was later reproduced on to an LP record album from the 1970s titled "W.C. Fields on Radio." And who could forget the gruff guy asking for a stamp taken from the middle of the plaid. Best scene: Bratty daughter coughing up feathers taken and eaten one by one from the caged canary bird.

THE PHARMACIST, along with other Fields' shorts, has turned up occasionally on television over the years, notably cable stations as Turner Classic Movies in June 2001 as part of its "Star of the Month" tribute to W.C. Fields, and through its distribution on video and DVD formats, with best possible prints of all Fields' short subjects of the 1930s from the Criterion Collection. Fields' devotees would certainly find this aa good prescription for comedy. Canary birds, well, that's another matter. (***)

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