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Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)

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Reviews: 30 user | 15 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 »


(as Edward Cline)


(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Title: Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
The Great Man
Gloria Jean ...
His Niece
Leon Errol ...
His Rival
Billy Lenhart ...
His Heckler (as Butch)
Kenneth Brown ...
His Heckler (as Buddy)
Margaret Dumont ...
Mrs. Hemogloben
Susan Miller ...
Ouilotta Hemogloben
Franklin Pangborn ...
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


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Musical






Release Date:

10 October 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This was the last movie to feature Fields as the main character; his remaining film work had him in supporting roles or cameos, as his health began to decline. See more »


During the car chase, the time on clock in Fields' car varies erratically between scenes. See more »


His Niece: [as things turn into chaos, at Fields' instigation, shaking her head] My uncle Bill...
[then, resolute]
His Niece: But I still love him!
See more »


Featured in The Opera Ghost: A Phantom Unmasked (2000) See more »


Arranged from Russian ballad by Harry Horlick, Gregory Stone
Sung by Gloria Jean
See more »

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User Reviews

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (Edward Cline, 1941) ***
18 May 2007 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

I watched this one first from the second of Universal's W.C. Fields Box Set because of its almost legendary status for being "completely insane", as Leonard Maltin so aptly puts it; incidentally, the film also turned out to be The Great Man's last starring vehicle (based on his own story, credited to Otis Criblecoblis). It's amazing how Fields' essentially unlikable personality has endured over the years: he's the only actor who has made a career out of constantly dwelling on his vices, i.e. the "golden nectar", and pet hates (especially children). Besides, his comic style is so personal as to be incoherent at times - but that's part of his genius: who else could come up with such a bizarre line as "How'd you like to hide the egg and gurgitate a few saucers of mocha java?" and make it sound so utterly hilarious through his unique delivery?

While self-references such as abound in this film weren't uncommon in the old Hollywood, not to mention its anything-goes attitude revolving around a wisp of plot - think Universal's own HELLZAPOPPIN' (1942), for instance, with Olsen & Johnson - Fields was the only one among the great comedians who was willing to experiment in this way; in fact, some of the cast members (including the star) play themselves and, at one point, Fields is even seen admiring the poster of his latest success THE BANK DICK (1940) while two boys exclaim to one another what a bummer it was!

The end result is perhaps patchy overall but often uproarious nonetheless: there are too many pauses for song - though Gloria Jean herself is pretty and charming, and the jive rendition of "Comin Thru' The Rye" by a girl who has been sheltered from the world all her life is an inspired touch. Among Fields' comic foils in the film are Franklin Pangborn (as a flustered studio head), Marx Bros. regular Margaret Dumont (playing the grande dame even in her mountaintop retreat) and Leon Errol (as Fields' rival for the hand of wealthy man-hating Dumont). Incidentally, the receptionist in Pangborn's office is played by Carlotta Monti - Fields' then-companion.

The film's best scenes and gags include: the diner sequence with Fields exchanging insults with a heavy-set waitress; the disruption of Gloria's rehearsal of a musical number, over which Pangborn presides, by the set construction crew; Pangborn reading Fields' surreal script (in which, among other things, he dives off an aeroplane - whose interior and rear deck resemble those of a train's - after the gin bottle he accidentally drops, and again from a parapet when Dumont suggests that they kiss!); Dumont's fanged mastiff (an equally fake-looking gorilla also turns up here); and, of course, the classic and brilliantly-sustained chase finale (which was later lifted for the Abbott & Costello vehicle IN SOCIETY [1944]). The dialogue is equally great - including one of the star's best-remembered lines: "I was in love with a beautiful blonde once: she drove me to drink - that's the one thing I'm indebted to her for"; he even throws in a dig at the censor, when a scene that was supposed to take place in a bar had to be reset to a soda fountain!

P.S. At the end, Gloria leaves with Fields and he tells her that he had promised her mother he would take care of the girl; the mother, a trapeze artist, appears at the beginning of the film but her death scene (to which this brief exchange refers) was subsequently deleted.

By the way, I'm again baffled by the fact that I've yet to come across any online review for this wonderful set; also, I'm personally not bothered by the Collection's relatively high price-point - considering that we're getting, at least, 4 comedic gems (besides, by having only one film per disc, we don't risk the freezing issues which plagued Universal's Abbott & Costello Franchise releases and which have so far kept me from purchasing them).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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