We’re here now with our first look at a film featuring the Star Of The Month for November 2022 (W. C. Fields), the 1934 comedy The Old-Fashioned Way!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Our Gang Follies Of 1936 (1935)
(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)
(Length: 17 minutes, 54 seconds)
Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang put on a show for the kids of the neighborhood. However, one highly-demanded act is missing, so the Gang has to figure out what to do instead. This one was a lot more amusing than some of the previous shorts. The music is fun, but, as usual, it’s the comedy that manages to be memorable, with the monkey leading the way, either when he’s chasing Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) with a pitchfork, or when he’s hiding in the dress that Spanky has to wear to lead the others when they impersonate the Flory-Dory Sixtette. The only problem with this short for modern audiences is the way that they light up the eyes of the black kids whenever the lights are turned off (which only happens a few times for brief moments). Other than that, this one was quite entertaining, and I look forward to revisiting it in the future!
And Now For The Main Feature…
The Great McGonigle (W. C. Fields) and his troupe of performers leave a town by train, barely getting past the sheriff who was trying to serve McGonigle for not paying his bills at the boarding house (or for anything else). The troupe is joined by Wally Livingston (Joe Morrison), a young college student who is courting McGonigle’s daughter, Betty (Judith Allen) (although she is trying to urge him to go back to college, to no avail). They soon arrive in the small town of Bellefontaine. McGonigle had been telling the troupe that the theatre there had sold out for their performance, but they quickly find out that only a handful of tickets have been sold. At their boardinghouse, they meet the stagestruck Cleopatra Pepperday (Jan Duggan) and her son Albert (Baby LeRoy). Cleopatra auditions to join the troupe, and, although she displays a complete lack of talent, McGonigle decides to let her join anyway (since she is the richest woman in town). When another member of the troupe leaves (on account of the lack of business), Wally auditions and becomes a member of the troupe (and, unlike Cleopatra, he does have talent). Another sheriff tries to force McGonigle to pay his bill by threatening to prevent the show from going on, but Cleopatra offers to pay the bill so that she can have her chance. So the troupe puts on the show for a full audience (since everybody in town wants to see Cleopatra make a fool of herself). The audience includes Wally’s father, who has come to convince his son to go back to college and to stay away from Betty. Will Wally listen to his father (and Betty), or will he stay with the show? For that matter, will the Great McGonigle be able to keep the show going, or will Cleopatra’s presence get them laughed out of town?
Like most of the other W. C. Fields films that I’ve reviewed in the past, this one was entirely new for me. Personally, I thought it was a lot of good fun, with W. C. Fields being the most enjoyable part! From his opening appearance when he deftly evades the sheriff, to his night on the train, to all his lies even to his own troupe members, Fields manages to be quite humorous! Personally, the most memorable moments are when he has to deal with Cleopatra’s child (played by Baby LeRoy), who ruins his dinner, and Jan Duggan’s Cleopatra auditioning (in that old “singing poorly while performing a song that the spectators keep thinking is about to end, only to go yet another verse and chorus” way) with “Gathering Up The Shells From The Sea Shore”. But some of the real fun here is seeing Fields juggle (which is what he originally broke into show business doing, as he quickly became one of the best), using balls and cigar boxes. The film is slowed down for about twenty minutes as we see the troupe perform the old temperance play The Drunkard, especially with it being performed in what seems to be the style of acting that would have been prevalent for the time this movie is set in (but which seems extremely odd now to us more modern audiences). This isn’t exactly the best W. C. Fields film that I’ve ever seen, but it’s entertaining, and kept me laughing throughout. In my book, that’s certainly worth recommending (especially to see Fields juggle, which I would argue is a thing of beauty to watch)!
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. This release seems to be using an older HD master, but it looks pretty good. The detail is good enough (soft for some, but it is what it is), and while there is some damage present, it’s relatively minor and doesn’t take away from the film itself. Overall, this is likely to be as good a transfer as this film will get, making it the recommended way to see this fun movie!
Film Length: 1 hour, 12 minutes
My Rating: 9/10
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