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 »
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 <email@example.com>
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 »
During the car chase, the time on clock in Fields' car varies erratically between scenes. See more »
Having heard a whole row of unfavorable words of NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK, my expectations were pretty low when I recently watched the film for the first time. Now that I've seen it, first of all I'd like to say that I think there's a moral to this story (a personal one, anyway); don't ever let any other than yourself tell you whether you should miss an experience or not, because if you do, you are likely to miss something which may fit your taste better than it did to others. I don't know if I'm that rare, intelligent person able to appreciate what others simply don't understand, or if I'm a nobody with a silly taste; you decide. What I do know is that the last starring vehicle of W.C. Fields was, as a whole, a delightful surprise to me.
About ten years after he reached stardom as a screen comedian, a poorly aging "Uncle Billie" was finally permitted to do a film entirely as he pleased, at Universal Studios. Whether the studio actually fulfilled its promise has been questioned in recent years; one biography even claims that the scene in which Fields drinks in a soda-bar was the result of censors denying him to appear in a saloon. Several opera-inspired sequences add further suspicion. However, Fields was not a man to let anyone tell him how to work, a fact which made him unpopular among movie producers and immensely popular among audiences. He's not going to cheat us; in order to explain the soda-bar, he simply says it as it is -- looks into the camera and mumbles, "This is supposed to be a saloon, but the censors cut it out." Like most great humorists, Fields brings his wit into the screen with the unhappy circumstances outside it as his source.
The film has been described as more surrealistic (some say even absurd) than any other Fields-film, and rightfully so. In fact, when Fields reveals the reason behind the soda-bar, he not only walks out of character, as other clowns had done before him; he breaks the barrier of film fantasy in a way I've never seen before -- he walks out of character out of character. In the film, for the first time, The Great Man appears as himself, the comedian W.C. Fields, trying to sell a script in Hollywood. It is somewhat sad that this was Fields' last major appearance, as everyone in town --waitresses, producers, and performers-- are against him; one could almost assume that he was trying to tell us that this was to be his final bow, that he was tired of the entire Hollywood-industry and its intolerance of him. However, if this apparent bitterness influenced the final product, it must be added that Fields also confirmed another, far more important, side of himself: he was still in shape. In my opinion, he is as funny as ever. This is a bold statement, but really, while the porch-sequence from IT'S A GIFT might be the most side-splitting thing Fields ever did, I don't think I ever laughed so continually during a Fields-movie as with this one. It's filled with wonderful lines throughout, including classics such as "I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I'm indebted to her for," and "We're falling 2,000 feet!" "It's all right, dear. Don't start worrying 'til we get down 1,999. The last foot is dangerous," or "I didn't squawk about the steak, dear. I merely said I didn't see that old horse that used to be tethered outside here," not to forget "Are you REALLY a man?" "I've been called other things..." And I must add, Waitress: "You know, there's something awfully big about you. Your nose." Studying her rear end, mumbling: "There's something awfully big about you, too." Goddfrey Daniels, I could go on and on!
As the story also involves Fields' fictional niece Gloria Jean --a young actress with a terrific singing voice-- SUCKER turned out a part-musical, which is mainly why so many today regard the film as such a forgettable experience. I won't deny that a couple of the song-scenes felt a bit exhausting, but one should keep in mind that unlike the "operettas" of The Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy, the singing included here plays a significant impact on the story; at the beginning, when we witness Gloria perform songs she dislikes in a studio, we get a sense of what this girl is like. This sense increases later on, when she is seen singing along with a group of happy farmers. Obviously, her highest wish is to live in peace with her uncle. With this in mind, perhaps Fields also tried to say something about himself. During filming, he and Gloria established a close friendship, and the man known for his misanthropic nature reportedly told her once that "You are the daughter I never had." In the film, the niece wanted to live in peace with her uncle; outside the screen, in this cold, unfunny world, perhaps what Fields ever wanted was to live in peace with a daughter -- he was estranged from his son early on, and his need for being close to someone, someone to trust, was probably greater than we will ever know (no, I'm not a fan of psychoanalysis, but couldn't resist here).
NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK may offer some minor flaws in terms of structure and such, but these possible flaws are easily out-won by dozens of laughs -- and a very sweet story. If The Great Man wasn't a great man, nobody was.
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