The Bank Dick (1940)

“The Bank Dick” shows W.C. Fields’s distinct voice as a classic comic actor

wc_fieldsbankdickposterFool me once, W.C. Fields, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. It goes to show that in my Rapid Response to “It’s a Gift” just how little I knew about Fields or his movies. Roger Ebert’s Great Movies piece of “The Bank Dick” informs that you don’t have to be familiar with Fields’s movies to be considered a movie buff, and yet if you have never come across him, you’re hardly a movie lover at all.

Ebert describes him as a man who seemed to be drunk at all times, whose louse behavior was par for the course, and whose movies were not especially good, but whose best moments were spread across numerous features and shorts. His best known feature, “The Bank Dick,” made eight years after “It’s a Gift,” shows just how little Fields’s formula had evolved in that time. And to watch the two films in close succession, you begin to develop an affinity for their patterns and their sillier shared qualities.

That doesn’t mean I exactly enjoyed “The Bank Dick.” It’s perhaps even more formless of a story than “It’s a Gift,” and yet taken together it’s much easier to respect the work Fields is doing and the effort that’s gone into making these films, as dumb as they are. Continue reading “The Bank Dick (1940)”

Rapid Response: It’s a Gift (1932)

220px-WCF_It's_a_Gift_1934The comedies of W.C. Fields have not aged well, but there’s a clear dark side upon watching them today. I can imagine a version of this film in which none of the incompetence, prat fall humor and family comedy would be played for laughs and instead as a dark satire of a depressed, miserable nuclear family.

Sure enough, people have reimagined the family comedy and the sitcom. You can see traces of W.C. Fields in Clark Griswold, or I think of Louis C.K. trying to stage a sitcom in which when his wife scolds him for opening a bottle on the table, she doesn’t say “I love you,” but “I’m leaving you.”

In “It’s a Gift,” Fields plays Harold, a struggling grocer who lucks into a small fortune upon learning of the death of his wealthy relative. Before the ink is dry on the will, Harold has already purchased an orange grove in California, unaware (or unwilling to learn) that nothing will grow on his newly purchased lot. But the film plays more as a series of slapstick sketches. Continue reading “Rapid Response: It’s a Gift (1932)”