Sam Bisbee is an inventor whose works (e.g., a keyhole finder for drunks) have brought him only poverty. His daughter is in love with the son of the town snob. Events conspire to ruin his bullet-proof tire just as success seems near. Another of his inventions prohibits him from committing suicide, so Sam decides to go on living.. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is yet another delightful W.C. Fields vehicle which he had already made as a Silent, under the name SO'S YOUR OLD MAN (1926). Actually, the first half of this comedy classic is possibly the best of the four titles I've watched so far from Universal's second Fields set (with several hilarious gags taken by the star as far as they can go); the latter section lacks that initial sparkle, despite its climaxing with his famous golf routine (which had also been the basis of his short THE GOLF SPECIALIST ).
Interestingly, the film combines the star's two basic personality traits: here, he's both henpecked and con-man (playing an inventor of unlikely gadgets). There's the usual romance hindered by class distinction (see also THE OLD FASHIONED WAY ) between Fields' livelier-than-usual daughter - played by Joan Marsh - and future Flash Gordon Larry "Buster" Crabbe; lovely Adrienne Ames brings an exotic touch to the proceedings as a princess who befriends the star on a train (gossiping womenfolk from Fields' hometown think he's having an affair) and determines to 'elevate' his social position. The train sequence is marked by an unexpected poignancy, with the Fields character's intention of committing suicide after blowing his get-rich-quick scheme.
Among the highlights are: Fields ruining his daughter's prospects by his "naïve gauchery" when Crabbe's snobbish upper-crust mother comes visiting; his demonstration of the damage-proof tyre (Fields doesn't realize that his vehicle has been moved and that he's firing at the wheels of a police-car - the scene is capped by the car-radio's announcement of the very 'crime' being committed upon it!); Fields inadvertently drinking from a roach exterminating potion of his own invention but, after turning to the genuine stuff, decides that the former is more to his liking!; when he returns home a failure, Fields tries to soften the blow to his family honor by buying his wife a pet - a large ostrich he's unable to control and ends up losing practically immediately! And the best lines: the "Mrs. Bisbee, you're the luckiest woman in the world" - "Is my husband dead?" exchange between the princess and Fields' wife; the star's remark to the princess about Mrs. Bisbee's "uncalled for sarcasm".
Director Kenton is better known for his horror stuff, notably ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1933) - also made at Paramount - and such Universal 'B' monster flicks as THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942), HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) and HOUSE OF Dracula (1945); he did, however, helm three above-average Abbott & Costello comedies a decade after making his solo W.C. Fields vehicle.
In conclusion, even if Fields was essentially a Talkie comedian, I still wish that some of the earlier versions of his classic films were more readily available (I'm only familiar with the star's Silent work through his debut short POOL SHARKS , featured on Criterion's W.C. FIELDS: 6 SHORT FILMS disc)...
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