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It's a Gift (1934)

Passed | | Comedy | 30 November 1934 (USA)
A henpecked New Jersey grocer makes plans to move to California to grow oranges, despite the resistance of his overbearing wife.

Director:

Norman Z. McLeod (as Norman McLeod)

Writers:

Jack Cunningham (screen play), J.P. McEvoy (from "The Comic Supplement" by) | 1 more credit »
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1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
W.C. Fields ... Harold Bissonette
Kathleen Howard ... Amelia Bissonette
Jean Rouverol ... Mildred Bissonette
Julian Madison Julian Madison ... John Durston
Tommy Bupp ... Norman Bissonette (as Tom Bupp)
Baby LeRoy ... Baby Dunk
Tammany Young Tammany Young ... Everett Ricks
Morgan Wallace ... James Fitchmueller
Charles Sellon ... Mr. Muckle
Josephine Whittell ... Mrs. Dunk
T. Roy Barnes ... Insurance Salesman
Diana Lewis ... Miss Dunk
Spencer Charters ... Gate Guard
Guy Usher Guy Usher ... Harry Payne Bosterly
Dell Henderson ... Mr. Abernathy (as Del Henderson)
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Storyline

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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

California or Bust! And what they don't burn, they practically wreck...just as they will wreck you with laughter in this coast-to-coast joy-ride! See more »

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 November 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Che bel regalo See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(TCM print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

The shaving cream on Harold's face changes when he tries to use the can as a mirror. See more »

Quotes

Insurance Salesman: 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.
Harold: 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!
Insurance Salesman: Well he's a railroad man and he leaves home very early in the morning.
Harold: Well, he's a chump.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »

Connections

Referenced in The Blues Brothers (1980) See more »

Soundtracks

On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away
(1897) (uncredited)
Written by Paul Dresser
Performed by Chill Wills and The Avalon Boys
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Best There Is
6 November 2006 | by aimless-46See all my reviews

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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