Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Absurd Comedy, Satire  |   Release Date - Oct 10, 1941 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 71 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Synopsis by Hal Erickson

W.C. Fields heads to Esoteric studios to pitch a story idea to producer Franklin Pangborn. The producer wants to make a conventional romantic musical starring Fields' niece, teen-aged soprano Gloria Jean, but "The Great Man" has other ideas. As Pangborn sits in dumbfounded silence, Fields unravels an incoherent farrago which begins with him travelling to a Russian colony in Mexico--by way of an airliner with an open observation platform. Fields dives from the plane when his precious flask of gin falls overboard; he lands safely at the mountaintop mansion of the formidable Mrs. Hemoglobin (Margaret Dumont). Playing a kissing game with Hemoglobin's beauteous daughter (Susan Miller), who has never seen a man before, Fields decides to make a quick exit when Mama wants to get in on the game too. Reunited with Gloria Jean in the Russian colony, Fields learns that Mrs. Hemoglobin is worth millions, so he climbs back up the mountain, ignoring such obstacles as a displaced African gorilla. Disposing of his rival Leon Errol, Fields is about to wed Mrs. Hemoglobin, but is talked out of it at the last moment by Gloria Jean. At this point in the narrative, producer Pangborn can stand no more. He tells Fields to take his nonsensical screenplay and vacate the premises. After a brief episode at a soda fountain ("This scene was supposed to be in a saloon, but the censors made us cut it out"), Fields drives off to new adventures with his niece--but not before a zany slapstick car-chase finale, prompted by Fields' mistaken belief that he's rushing a corpulent middle-aged lady to the maternity hospital. W. C. Fields' original screenplay for Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (written under the fanciful pseudonym of Otis Criblecoblis) made a lot more sense than what ended up on screen, but Fields' extended absences from the studio, coupled with Universal's desire to reshape the film into a vehicle for their new star Gloria Jean, necessitated a complete restructuring of the plot. While hardly Fields' best or most representative film, Sucker is an excellent example of the sort of nonsensical "nut" humor in vogue in 1941 thanks to Olsen and Johnson's Hellzapoppin'. And, occasionally, the film stands still long enough to allow W. C. Fields to mutter a priceless aside or toss off a perfectly timed double-take.




storyteller, behind-the-scenes, car-chase, Hollywood, mansion, producer [showbiz], script, work [occupation], comedian, con/scam, airplane, guardian, alcoholism, film-studio, gorilla, jokes, trapeze-artist


High Artistic Quality