Tillie and Gus (1933)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Comedy  |   Run Time - 58 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Tillie and Gus is not one of the great W.C. Fields classics, but it's a modestly entertaining piece of foolishness. The story is perfunctory, one of those "good crooks defeat bad crooks" situations which exist more to hang routines on than to provide convincing drama, but it's the right kind of situation for the curmudgeonly Fields and his erstwhile partner, the delightfully craggy Alison Skipworth. It allows these two fine and very distinctive personalities the opportunity to do what they do best -- engage in battles, both overt and covert, against each other and in tandem against common foes. Fields and Skipworth are a remarkable team with a unique chemistry that involves a very unusual kind of love, one that can't quite extricate itself from mutual distaste and repulsion. Being a Fields film, there are naturally some set pieces for him, and the best of these -- the poker game, the disastrous painting attempt -- are truly hilarious. The rest of the film tends to settle for chuckles and smiles, even in the climactic riverboat race, which manages to be effective despite the lack of a real bring-down-the-house finale. Tillie and Gus never really reaches moments of transcendent hilarity that would make it a great comedy, but it's still a good deal of fun and well worth viewing.