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S. Sylvan Simon
The owner of a general store (Harold Bisonette) is hounded by his status-anxious wife ("That's 'Bee-soh-nay'" and "I have no maid you know"). To get some sleep he goes out on the porch where he is tormented by a little boy from the floor above (Baby Dunk) and an insurance salesman down below ("LaFong. Capital L, small a..."). He uses an inheritance to buy an orange ranch through the mail, then drives off with his family for California. The orange grove consists of a withered tree, the ranch house is but a shack, and the car falls to pieces. But a racetrack operator wants the land, so all ends happily. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
I'm not going to repeat the story here. The story line is serviceable, but not as important as the situations and the set pieces. Mundane things like light bulbs and back porches become magical in this movie, though exactly what kind of magic is open to debate.
But I will say that this is the best of W.C. Fields's films, and that's saying something (though I do like "Million Dollar Legs" an awful lot). And I'd put "It's a Gift" in the Top 10 list of the best sound comedies ever made, and maybe in the Top 5.
The production is about as tacky as Golden Age Paramount was capable of. Compared to the Marx Brother's "Duck Soup" which was made in the same place at almost the same time, it looks like home movies.
But "It's a Gift" is every bit as funny as "Duck Soup," if not more so, and has aged less than Paramount's high-style comedies with MacDonald and Chevalier (which are still wonderful but require more of an effort from modern audiences).
Whether you plug into Fields's comedy as a painful commentary on the human condition, or if you just want some belly laughs with no strings attached , this is the film to watch. And if it's the first time you're seeing it, I envy you.
And best regards from Carl LaFong.
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