Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Fieldsian Footnote

Mssrs. Mark Clark and Dan Craft -- two affably-disposed correspondents -- surprised me this morning with electronic epistles, both of them disclosing, with perfect independence of each other, that one of the features included in the R2 W.C. Fields box set -- SIX OF A KIND (1934), previously mentioned by me as exclusive to that set -- was also given an R1 release as part of a single-disc, three film Burns & Allen collection from Universal, which also includes HERE COMES COOKIE and LOVE IN BLOOM. The other two pictures were made in 1935.

How could I have failed to note this? I don't know... probably had too much to drink.

As it happens, I addressed my tawny peepers to the film in question last night and -- mother of pearl! -- I can't recall a drearier 59 minutes since I last had to drag my canoe single-handed through the brush to the banks of Lake Titicaca. Fields has only a supporting role in this one, which is more of a tepid Charlie Ruggles or Burns & Allen picture, tedious at half the length, but he manages to spank it to life for about five minutes in a graceful physical humor skit as "Honest John," a drunken no-account sheriff who tries with misleading alacrity to line up a billiards shot in the local pool hall. Thanks to the exigencies of YouTube, you can see this choice cut here and tell the rest to go to Philadelphia. Incidentally, Fields' co-star in this scene is Tammany Young, who played his stooge in a number of pictures before his early death in 1936.

Mr. Clark opines: "Fields is overdue for another comeback. It's true that Fields' occasional racial humor can sometimes be cringe-inducing (especially in something like MISSISSIPPI), [but] on balance I think our modern, touchy-feely, PC world could use a comedian who's willing to kick a baby in the ass."

To which I say, "Who could possibly disagree?"

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