What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Never Give A Sucker An Even Break (1941)

We’re back for some more movie fun, so let’s start off with today’s short, which is available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Ant And The Aardvark from Kino Lorber, and then we’ll set the stage for the main feature!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Ant From Uncle (1969)

(Length: 6 minutes, 7 seconds)

The ant complains about a lack of relaxation, while the aardvark tries to hunt him down.  A few fun gags here, including a recurring gag of the aardvark sucking up different things, such as a small pond when he demonstrates his abilities for us, the audience. We also get one of those rare times that the aardvark is able to “eat” the ant by pretending his mouth is the entrance to a club (and, of course, while the ant is in there, he talks as if it is a real nightclub to get himself out)! Admittedly, the closing gag falls flat, but the short is still otherwise enough fun to enjoy watching every now and then!

And Now For The Main Feature…

(Host): The story for Never Give A Sucker An Even Break was the idea of one Otis Criblecoblis. Wait, Otis Criblecoblis? Oh, right, that’s a pseudonym that star W. C. Fields wrote under for this movie. He had been under contract at this time to Universal Studios for four films, of which this was his last. He had fought to do a movie his way under them, and this was supposedly his opportunity to do it with his script, staging, and supporting cast. But, at first, the script was too short (according to the studio), and so it had to be rewritten several times to get it to a decent length. Then, the censors at the Hays Office objected to a great many things about the movie. So, Universal took things further and had some other writers work on it, with their version of the script quite detestable to W. C. Fields. However, he got the last laugh, as the film’s director, Edward Cline, decided to shoot the film with Mr. Fields’ script, and so the Universal executives had no idea. However, the movie still turned out to be Mr. Fields’ last starring film, as the studio dropped him, and his own health started to deteriorate enough that he couldn’t do full movies anymore. Anyways, enough background info, time to hand things over to my new narrator, and get to the movie itself. So, take it away!

(Narrator): The Great Man (W. C. Fields) is on a plane with his Niece (Gloria Jean) when…

(Host): Hey, wait a minute! You’re getting a little far into the movie! Try again!

(Narrator): Mr. Van Cleve (Thurston Hall) arrives home to find his wife had thrown a big costume party for her society friends. However, he is very tired but can’t get to sleep because of a leaky faucet, so the plumbers are called. So enter the plumbers, Eddie Harrington (Bud Abbott) and Albert Mansfield (Lou Costello)…

(Host): Ok, now you’re not even doing the right movie. Why don’t you set the stage for me, and let me take over?

(Narrator): Fine. We’re heading now to the stage, which is almost bare, save for a chair, a hat rack and our nuisance of a host. Ready now?

(Host): Ok, Ok. (Muttering under my breath: That’s the last time I bring in a special narrator for one of these things.) (Normal voice) Here we go, back to Never Give A Sucker An Even Break. To start with, we find W. C. Fields in a cafe, where he converses with the waitress before he leaves for-

(From offstage, a straw hat comes flying in and lands on my head, before the top breaks off and the whole thing falls down to my feet.)

(Host): You know, Mr. Fields, I may be tall, and I may be thin, but I am NOT a hat rack!

(Sticks hat on hat rack, for what it’s worth, as it quickly falls down to the ground over the hat rack.)

(Host): Where was I? Oh, yes. Mr. Fields was going in to Esoteric Pictures, where he hoped to pitch a script to the Producer (Franklin Pangborn). However, the Producer is currently more interested in rehearsing Fields’s niece, Gloria. Once Mr. Fields is able to see the Producer, he lets him read the script. Playing themselves in this “movie-within-a-movie,” Mr. Fields (A.K.A. The Great Man) is on a plane with his niece Gloria, when he falls off the observation deck. He lands on a bed down on the ground, where he meets the beautiful Ouilotta Hemogloben (Susan Miller), who has never met a man. After playing a kissing game of “Squidgilum” with her, he meets her mother, Mrs. Hemogloben (Margaret Dumont), who has kept her isolated on a mountain as a result of her own troubles with men. Upon seeing her, Mr. Fields jumps into a basket that takes him down to the bottom of the mountain, where he goes to a nearby village and is reunited with Gloria. While in the village, he learns that Mrs. Hemogloben is quite wealthy, and considers the idea of marriage. However, his Rival (Leon Errol) also hears, and climbs up the mountain to propose to her himself. Mr. Fields is able to get there himself to propose, and Mrs. Hemogloben accepts (while Mr. Fields shoves his Rival off the mountain). After talking with Gloria, though, he reconsiders, and the two of them hop in the basket, which starts unwinding its way down to the bottom of the mountain. At this point, the Producer is done with the rather ludicrous script that had been handed to him, and immediately bans Mr. Fields from coming on the lot. Later, while he’s out shopping with Gloria, he meets a woman who wants to get to the maternity hospital. Assuming she’s about to give birth (she’s not, as she’s not even pregnant), he rushes her to the hospital in a mad chase with a…

(Sounds of a firetruck siren coming closer from off stage)

(Host): What in the world?!?!? Uh-oh!

(dives out of the way as firetruck comes driving through from one side of the stage to the other)

“Hey Abbooooooooooooott!! I’m a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad boy!”

(Host): What?!?! What are they doing here?

(Narrator): Weren’t they in this movie?

(Host): NO!!! The footage from the big chase at the end was used in the Abbott and Costello film In Society, but that was a few years later! And what’s with them almost running me over?!?!?

(Narrator): That’s what you get for messing with your narrator!

(Host): Oh, so what? I was essentially through with the story, anyways. On to my opinion of this movie. This was my first time seeing this movie, and I will readily admit I enjoyed it quite a bit! W. C. Fields was indeed hilarious throughout the movie. The story is almost non-existent, with everything going from one scene to another, but, for me, that works just fine! This movie certainly may not be realistic, but the jokes land well most of the time, and that’s all I can begin to ask for! So I would definitely recommend this one!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. The Blu-ray transfer mainly seems to be an HD scan of the movie, without being given a new, modern restoration. It’s sad, but at the same time, not every movie is going to be lucky enough to get that, especially if the potential sales aren’t there. For me, this movie looks good enough, and it’s easy enough to get lost in enjoying the movie itself without worrying about the picture. I only hope it does well enough that more W. C. Fields movies make the jump to HD (although hopefully with better transfers).

Hey, anybody up for a game of “squidgilum?”

(puts hands on head, closes eyes and puckers up )

(sounds of audience members making a mad dash to get out of their seats)

(opens up eyes)

Oh, come on!

(Narrator): Had enough?

(Host): Ok, I’m out out of here!

(angrily tap dances off stage)

Film Length: 1 hour, 11 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

My Little Chickadee (1940)W. C. Fields

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