A small country on the verge of bankruptcy is persuaded to enter the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics as a means of raising money. Either a masterpiece of absurdity or a triumph of satire, ... 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... See full summary »
Larson E. Whipsnade runs a seedy circus which is perpetually in debt. His performers give him nothing but trouble, especially Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Meanwhile, Whipsnade's son ... See full summary »
Edward F. Cline
Rightly suspected of illicit relations with the Masked Bandit, Flower Belle Lee is run out of Little Bend. On the train she meets con man Cuthbert J. Twillie and pretends to marry him for "... See full summary »
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The final scene, on Bissonette's "orange ranch", was filmed at the house and property W.C. Fields was living in at the time of the filming. For his entire life, Fields rented living quarters, adamantly refusing to buy a house or land. See more »
The shaving cream on Harold's face changes when he tries to use the can as a mirror. See more »
Do you know a man by the name of LaFong? Carl LaFong? Capital L, small a, Capital F, small o, small n, small g. LaFong. Carl LaFong.
No, I don't know Carl LaFong - capital L, small a, capital F, small o, small n, small g. And if I did know Carl LaFong, I wouldn't admit it!
Well he's a railroad man and he leaves home very early in the morning.
Well, he's a chump.
See more »
The confrontation between W.C. Fields and Baby LeRoy was such a popular success that for this rematch the title card includes "with Baby LeRoy" as if the infant had second billing. See more »
W.C. Fields was simply the most talented comedian who ever lived, and "It's a Gift" (1934) is his most accessible feature. It's a loose remake of the 1926 silent "It's the Old Army Game" which stared Fields and Louise Brooks; and which Fields wrote. Like most silent features, the scene transitions are very abrupt, with titles used in place scripted transitional elements.
For "It's a Gift", Director Norman McLeod elected to stay true to the original and keep the flavor of its sudden transitions. Although the technique is jarring to modern viewers it works to the film's comic advantage by speeding up the pace of the film, as it moves from set piece to set piece with virtually no filler. You get everything that would have had any entertainment value in a 90-minute feature compressed into a 73-minute picture. Imagine a four-act play with one-second breaks between each act.
Act I takes place in the in the apartment home of the Bissonette family; consisting of put upon everyman husband/father Harold (Fields), his shrewish wife Amelia (Kathleen Howard), overwrought teenage daughter Jean (Jean Rouverol), and roller skating 9-year old son Norman (Tom Bupp). The most famous bit is Fields trying to finish shaving after his daughter has eased him away from the bathroom mirror.
Harold is the proprietor of a small grocery store and Act II takes place inside the store. The most famous bit concerns blind Mr. Muckle (Charles Sellon) whose flailing cane causes a staggering amount of damage.
Act III finds Harold back home trying to set some sleep. The best bit involves a series of trivial interruptions as everyone from the milk man to an insurance salesman manage to disturb him the moment it appears he is finally going to get some rest.
Act IV is the family's move to California by automobile to start a new life on an orange ranch Harold has purchased with his inheritance.
It's pretty much constant laughs, all the more remarkable because Fields stays in character for the entire duration. Harold Bissonette is his most sympathetic character, just an average guy badgered and hounded to the point of exasperation. Unlike his other features there are no cheap laughs from drinking or from leering at young women. The comedy derives entirely from Fields (and Howard who gets a laugh with every single line), it a nightmare realistic enough to make you squirm.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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