Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Errors, Domestic Comedy, Farce  |   Run Time - 65 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Although it is not as well known as such classic W.C. Fields entries as The Bank Dick, The Man on the Flying Trapeze is one of the great comic's finest vehicles and a delightful film all around. Despite the title, there's no circus setting in Trapeze; the title is more metaphorical, referring to the title character's flying from one ridiculous situation to another and as such could serve as the title for any number of Fields pictures. Trapeze benefits from the fact that the comic is playing a slightly more submissive character than usual. ($Fields} is almost always put-upon in some way, and his characters vary in how much they react to his situations, but his Ambrose Wolfinger is more vulnerable and one roots for him even more than usual. That's not to say he's not as cantankerous and crabby as ever, just that his retorts are more "under the breath" than usual. Fields and crew do a wonderful job of setting up all the odds against Ambrose, making the audience feel for and with him, and the comic set pieces they devise are gems all the way through. They do such a fine job that when the character finally has had enough and explodes, it's a titanic release for the audience as well and generates an incredible sense of fair play and joy among viewers. Fields' supporting cast is quite good, but it's definitely Fields who holds the whole show together and does it beautifully.