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Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)

Approved  |   |  Comedy, Musical  |  10 October 1941 (USA)
7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 1,530 users  
Reviews: 32 user | 17 critic

Fields wants to sell a film story to Esoteric Studios. On the way he gets insulted by little boys, beat up for ogling a woman, and abused by a waitress. He becomes his niece's guardian when... See full summary »

Director:

(as Edward Cline)

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Gloria Jean ...
His Niece
Leon Errol ...
His Rival
Billy Lenhart ...
His Heckler (as Butch)
Kenneth Brown ...
His Heckler (as Buddy)
...
Mrs. Hemogloben
Susan Miller ...
Ouilotta Hemogloben
...
The Producer
Mona Barrie ...
The Producer's Wife
Charles Lang ...
The Young Engineer
Anne Nagel ...
Madame Gorgeous
Nell O'Day ...
The Salesgirl
Irving Bacon ...
The Soda Jerk
Jody Gilbert ...
The Waitress
Minerva Urecal ...
The Cleaning Woman
Edit

Storyline

Fields wants to sell a film story to Esoteric Studios. On the way he gets insulted by little boys, beat up for ogling a woman, and abused by a waitress. He becomes his niece's guardian when her mother is killed in a trapeze fall during the making of a circus movie. He and his niece, who he finds at a shooting gallery, fly to Mexico to sell wooden nutmegs in a Russian colony. Trying to catch his bottle as it falls from the plane, he lands on a mountain peak where lives the man- eating Mrs. Hemogloben. When he gets to the Russian colony he finds Leon Errol (father of the insulting boys and owner of the shooting gallery) already selling wooden nutmegs. He decides to woo the wealthy Mrs. Hemogloben but when he gets there Errol has preceded him. The Mexican adventure is the story that Esoteric Studios would not buy. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Musical

Certificate:

Approved
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

10 October 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Gib einem Trottel nie eine Chance  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Fields' 2003 biography, the vehicle crashing into the drugstore was a real accident that occurred during filming. The director decided to leave it in to give the film the appearance of having a bigger budget. See more »

Goofs

When the ladder of the fire truck lifts the car into the air, a shadow on the front of the building reveals the rigging and crane that actually did the lifting. See more »

Quotes

The Great Man: Do you want to grow up and be dumb like Zasu Pitts?
See more »

Connections

Featured in W.C. Fields: Straight Up (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

CHICKENS LAY EGGS IN KANSAS
(uncredited)
Written and Sung by W.C. Fields
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Great Man's Final Bow
23 November 2005 | by (Bronx, New York) – See all my reviews

So many great comedians retired when they were past their heights: Chaplin never quite adjusted to the sound era; Keaton went from substandard vehicles to sad cameos; Laurel and Hardy went on in B pictures until age took the joy out of their slapstick.

Fields, on the other hand, made what was arguably his funniest film, "The Bank Dick," next to last, and saved his most thorough insanity for his final shot, "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break." While not as funny as its predecessor, nor "It's a Gift," an earlier masterpiece, his last movie is a glorious kick in Hollywood's pants.

Fields plays The Great Man (himself, naturally) pitching a script to Franklin Pangborn, who although also going by his own name has been somehow promoted to producer. Fields used Pangborn in other films as the embodiment of humorless, easily-shocked Society, in all its prim priggishness; it's revealing that here Pangborn becomes Hollywood too. Doubtless W.C.'s feelings about the movie industry at that point were much the same as they were about the social order: too many rules, not enough fun. His script of course, is utter hogwash: a bizarre Munchausen tale about gorillas on mountaintops, 90 proof goat's milk, and himself diving sans parachute from an airplane (which rather puzzlingly possesses an open-air observation deck) to rescue a fallen bottle of liquor.

Even outside the movie studio enemies are all around: insolent children, a sarcastic waitress ("There's something awfully big about you," she comments, apropos his nose; he waits until she bends over a counter to respond, "There's something awfully big about you too."), scornful policemen, and of course the "real" movie business behind the scenes. (Fields bellies up to an ice-cream counter, darkly informing the camera, "This scene used to be set in a saloon.") Presumably these last are the geniuses responsible for saddling him a singing starlet, Gloria Jean, who gets just enough screen-time to be safely irrelevant, one more strange distraction in a movie completely full of them.

Other, more welcome presences include Leon Errol, as a romantic rival of sorts, and the redoubtable Margaret Dumont, presumably on loan from the Marxes. She famously never "got" Groucho; what in God's name must she have thought of Fields?

Thus the greatest comic iconoclast of his time makes his final bow, with a flourish. If it's not laugh-out-loud funny as his previous movies, it's weird, exhilaratingly pointless, and, thoroughly and wonderfully his own.


6 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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