Wednesday, January 27, 2010

81. It's a Gift (1934)

Running Time: 71 minutes
Directed By: Norman Z. McLeod
Written By: Jack Cunnigham, W.C. Fields
Main Cast: W.C. Fields, Kathleen Howard, Jean Rouverol, Tom Bupp, Baby LeRoy


I know I start out a lot of my posts like this, but here it goes again: I'm sure I had heard the name W.C. Fields, prior to purchasing the "1001" book, but unfortunately, up until today, I had never seen one of his pictures or short films for that matter. W.C. Fields is yet another reason, that I'm so glad I decided to begin this journey, because otherwise I would have never realized what a comedic genius he was.

The plot to "It's A Gift" really isn't much. It's a very simple premise, supported by a series of segements and skits and yet, with such a lack of story, the whole movie turns out to be a real romp and something that's a whole lot of fun to spend an hour with. Harold Bissonete (played by Fields and pronounced Bis - O - Nay, when his wife's present) is a Jersey general store owner, with dreams of owning his own orange grove in California. When his beloved Uncle Bean passes away, his dreams are realized and Harold finally purchases the orange grove, despite the objections from his family. Upon arriving in California, and with plenty of laughter to settle us in along the way, Harold finds that the grove is nothing like he imagined it, and seemingly all his money is down the tubes. That's it, that's the entire story of "It's a Gift" and really it doesn't sound like much, but let me let you in on some of the hilarity that ensues throughout the film.

All the fun starts in the bathroom, as Harold's daughter interrupts his morning shave and Harold tries aimlessly to get the hair removed from his face. Then we're taken inside Harold's general store, where a man desperately needs ten pounds of cumquats and Harold tries his best to take the man's order, while he tries to keep his store in order, as a treacherous, clumsy and quite moody blind man, Mr. Muckle, wreaks havoc on his store. Later, after a hard day's work Harold tries his best to get to sleep, but his wife's constant bickering about the reckless purchase of the orange grove, sends Harold to the front porch, which proves to be an even more difficult place to sleep, as he has to deal with; noisy neighbors, an insurance salesman, a broken hammock, a rickety clothesline, Baby LeRoy and his icepick of death and a coconut rolling down the stairs. I'll let you experience the rest of the funnies for yourself, but Fields obviously had a knack for humor and it's obvious with "It's a Gift".

Some of the funniest bits of the film came from Fields muttering under his breath, and sometimes I'd even miss what he said, or not realize that it was coming ("That's the fella' that wanted the cumquats"). Fields seemed to be able to make comedy out of the smallest of things, such as those mutterings. W.C. was able to turn the ordinary things that we all deal with on a day to day basis and turn them into comedy gold. It's amazing how many fantastic comedies and comedians I've discovered from watching the films from the "1001" book, and W.C. ranks right up there with Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd and Laurel & Hardy.

RATING: 9/10 I deducted one point, just because this film didn't 100% feel like a '10', at least not today. I'm sure once it's had a few days to settle in with me, that I'll boost it. But, that's okay, because the ratings you see here are my knee jerk ratings and what I think of a movie right after I finish it.

NEXT UP: Triumph of the Will...and things suddenly get serious, as we turn from humor to Hitler. Review comes later tonight.

January 27, 2010 3:50pm

1 comment:

  1. Kathleen Howard is my idol. After 22 years of marriage, I realize I've been doing the wife thing all wrong.

    I think Ms. Howard gave a genius of a performance every bit the equal of the great Fields.

    I don't know if it is in the book or not, but make a point of seeing Fields as Mr. Micawber in George Cukor's 1935 film of Dickens' "David Copperfield".


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