Posts Tagged ‘W.C Fields’

“I can think for myself the big issues but you gotta solve small issues for me, like where my next meal is coming from.”

Mahatma Kane Jeeves II


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“Life is like a Ponzi scheme…” I will let Bernie Madoff complete the sentence.

Mahatma Kane Jeeves II

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Here is a quote from a movie released in 1940:
Boy in bank: Mommy, doesn’t that man have a funny nose?
Mother in bank: You mustn’t make fun of the gentleman, Clifford. You’d like to have a nose like that full of nickels, wouldn’t you?

Whom the boy is referring to? (Hint: He isn’t JP Morgan.)
Anyone who has ever seen a comedy film by WC Fields would have no difficulty in answering the question.
The inimitable comedian, W.C. Fields plays Egbert Sousé, a lush who lives in a make-believe world, In the opening scene we see him falsely brag, “In the old Sennett days, I used to direct Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and the rest of ’em.” (This movie’s director ‘Eddie Cline’ did co-direct several of Buster Keaton’s early short subjects.)
He is indigent and henpecked to boot.
Egbert at home:
Elsie Mae Adele Brunch Sousé: Shall I bounce a rock off his head?
Agatha Sousé: Respect your father, darling. What kind of a rock?

He supports his family whenever he can by winning radio contests. When a fleeing bank robber is knocked cold upon tripping over the park bench where Egbert sits, Sousé is hailed as a hero and offered the job of bank guard. The next day, he is approached by one J. Frothingham Waterbury (Russell Hicks), : I want to show you I’m honest in the worst way! He offers to sell Egbert shares in the Beefsteak Mines. Sousé raises the necessary money by convincing bank clerk Og Oggilby (Grady Sutton), the fiance of Egbert’s daughter Myrtle (Una Merkel), to “borrow” some funds from the bank. Of course Oggilby cannot resist the logic of a local hero however odd it may sound at first.

Egbert Sousé: My uncle, a balloon ascensionist, Effingham Hoofnagle, took a chance. He was three miles and a half up in the air. He jumped out of the basket of the balloon and took a chance of alighting on a load of hay.
Og Oggilby: Golly! Did he make it?
Egbert Sousé: Uh… no. He didn’t. Had he been a younger man, he probably would have made it. That’s the point. Don’t wait too long in life.

Sousé is all for seizing the day. He assures Og it isn’t really embezzling. He knows the mine is bound to pay off.
Besides In Egbert’s moral dictionary the word Embezzlent carries only six words and not a sentence.
Myrtle Sousé: [doing a crossword puzzle] What’s a six-letter word meaning “embezzlement”?
Mrs. Hermisillo Brunch: Prison.

Aggravations of all sorts Egbert has to face at home. In the Bank also matters do not help.
Egbert Sousé: Is that gun loaded?
Mother in bank: Certainly not! But I think you are!

With Fields playing the lead role we have inspired silliness, buffoonery and his special brand of delivery,- gags that cannot even have a leg to stand on in any other, which when taken together is still an absurd comedy but of the highest order. In The Back Dick he is at his best. It is his first solo starring role in a Universal Pictures film. Fields wrote the original screenplay, but credits himself with the nom de plume of Mahatma Kane Jeeves.  He has no props as Mae West or Charlie McCarthy but it is no matter. In a little over one hour his comic genius presides over the town of Lompoc, Calif., He makes fun of everything sacred,-family, duty, hard work. Charity itself is suspect when WC Field lends a hand in fixing a stalled car. The film climaxes with one of the greatest slapstick, getaway car chase sequences in film history (a throw-back to Mack Sennett days – director Cline had been an actor in Sennett’s Keystone Kops). “The resale value of this car,” says Bill from the corner of his mouth, “is going to be practically nil when we get through with this trip.”The car chase has been imitated in numerous films, including Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc (1972).
‘The humor is both physical and intellectual. Fields was among the innovators of early sound films in using contemporary cultural references; yet the movie is not so tied to its era that its references have become obscure. As Fields’ style of quick-witted humor grew, the popularity of such low-brow comedians as El Brendel fell. There’s a nice supporting performance from Shemp Howard, but the film belongs to Fields’.(review- quoted from Richard Gilliam, All Movie Guide)
THE BANK DICK; original screen play by Mahatma Kane Jeeves; directed by Edward Cline for Universal Pictures.
Egbert Sousé . . . . . W. C. Fields
Agatha Sousé . . . . . Cora Witherspoon
Myrtle Sousé . . . . . Una Merkel
Elsie May Adele Brunch Sousé . . . . . Evelyn Del Rio
Mrs. Hermisillo Brunch . . . . . Jessie Ralph
J. Pinkerton Snoopington . . . . . Franklin Pangborn
Og Oggilby . . . . . Grady Sutton
Joe Guelpe . . . . . Shemp Howard
Mackley Q. Greene . . . . . Richard Purcell
J. Frothingham Waterbury . . . . . Russell Hicks
Mr. Skinner . . . . . Pierre Watkin
Filthy McNasty . . . . . Al Hill
Cozy Kochran . . . . . George Moran
A. Pismo Clam . . . . . Jack Norton
Francois . . . . . Reed Hadley
Miss Plupp . . . . . Heather Wilde
Doctor Stall . . . . . Harlan Briggs
Mr. Cheek . . . . . Bill Alston
*  “Mahatma Kane Jeeves” is a play on words from old stage plays. “My hat, my cane, Jeeves!”

* The newspaper being read by Egbert Sousé is the Lompoc Picayune Intelligencer.

* At the end of the movie Egbert Sousé is whistling “Listen to the Mockingbird” just as Joe the Bartender comes onto the screen. Joe is played by Shemp Howard of Three Stooges fame and “Listen to the Mockingbird” was the Three Stooges Theme music.

* Universal’s censors initially objected to W.C. Fields’ script and demanded many changes. Director ‘Eddie Cline’ suggested that Fields should go ahead and film it their way, and that the front office wouldn’t notice the difference. They didn’t.

* Premiere voted this movie as one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time” in 2006.


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While in Europe in 1926 movie moghul Henry Warner was impressed by a talented young director named Michael Curtiz. “Sign a contrat with me,”coaxed Warner,”I’ll make your name famous and a household word.”
Thus Michael Curtiz landed in New York in the month of July. He was met by a battery of reporters and photographers. He was whisked away in a chauffered limo and he got in short the full works. When the limo turned into Fifth Avenue the sidewalks were chokeful of people waving flags while bands played and soldiers marched.
Dazzled by this panopoly of brass and fifes beneath streams of flags Curtiz asked a studio official who accompanied him,”Does Mr.Warner put this kind of reception to every director he brings to America?”
“No,”replied the official,”only for those who arrive on the fourth of July.”
Producer Jules Dassin submitted a play to Catherine Hepburn which she read and wrote,”My Dear Dassin. Thank you you so much for sending this fascinating play. I found it most interesting, but unfortunately…” She stopped as she thought it sounded phoney and began again,”Dear Jules Dassin, Try as I will I cannot make head or tail of this confusing manuscript…” She laid aside unsatisfied and began another,” Mr. Dassin, This is the most idiotic and depressing clap-trap I’ve ever…”
She checked herself for its harsh tone. Finally she wrote thus:”Dear Mr. Dassin, I am grateful to you for thinking me but I am not available…” No again. Why lie, she thought.
Unable to find the right tone to make it palatable to the producer or make herself clear she put all the four replies into an envelope and sent it off to him.(Ack: Garson Kanin-Tracey and Hepburn)
When Sam B.Goldwyn launched a movie he spared no hyperbole: it had to have the same feel as the real drama his dream factory churned out in the studio lot. When he produced ‘The Best Years Of Our Lives’ his public relations consultant submitted the draft:
‘Great motion picture on film history; by the most brilliant writer of the century, Robert Sherwood; most notable cast ever assembled in the history of films; Directed by the world’s distinguished director, William Wyler. Produced under the aegis of the greatest producing genius of our times Samuel Goldwyn.’
After reading this Goldwyn pounded his desk and exclaimed,”That’s it! Facts,facts, that’s what I want- Facts!”
Marlene Dietrich saw the week’s rushes of a new picture and was dissatisfied. She complained. The studio had put the same photographer, her favorite camera man to shoot her. So they went to the projection room and had ‘The Garden Of Allah shown.
When it was over Miss Dietrich said,”I looked gorgeous in that picture; why can’t we get the same result in this one?”
The camera man was frank. He said,”I am eight years older now, Miss Dietrich.” (Ack: Leonard Lyms.)
W.C Fields(1879-1946)
The great comic who left home early and tried at many chores had come up through hardship. He had no proper education. Once he realized how it was necessary to be well read in order to be succesful he went after it in his inimitable way. Fields put a trunk up in his car and drove to the narest bookshop. He dragged the trunk into the shop and said to the startled book-shop assistant,”Fill’er up!”
Field’s return to Hollywood in 1931 was something which, oddly enough he did not repeat in his reel life. Driving in with a couple of flunkeys and considerable luggage he stopped before a hotel. He strode towards the reception desk and imperiously he demanded the bridal suite. The receptionist mildly taken aback by the oddity of the guest and his suite explained the bridal suite was reserved for the bridal couple. Fields replied that in that case he would take a look around the town and bring a bride back with him. With that he strode out. ( The Art Of W.C Fields-William.K.Everson-Bonanza books,N.Y)
A misguided matron was rather persistent in her efforts to get the great comic address her Society’s annual banquet. Put off by his reluctance she asked peeved,”But surely you believe in clubs for women?”
“Certainly,”rasped he,”but only if all other means of persuasion fail.”
He had great respect for money and like Jack Benny made a show of his reluctance to part with it. A friend who asked him for a loan he put off thus,”I’ll see what my lawyer says,- and if he says yes,I’ll get another lawyer.” Another time he was accosted outside the Chasen’s resturant by a struggling actor whose tales of woe he heard in silence and then spoke,”Sorry my good man, but all my money is tied up in currency.”
When Fields was mortally ill, Gene Fowler dropped in and caught him reading the Bible. Fowler was touched to see him with the book,- and he had never seen him find use for a Gideon’s bible except to prop up his drink and he said so. Fields brusquely answered, ”Don’t bother. I’m only looking for loopholes.”

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