Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


YOU CAN'T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN (1939). Director: George Marshall.

W. C. Fields is, as usual, excellent in this comedy, even if most of the material and supporting cast aren't on his level. Fields plays Larson E. Whipsnade, who is always trying to out-run and outwit his circus's creditors. His daughter Victoria (Constance Moore) decides to marry a persistent, wealthy suitor (James Bush) to help out her dad, even though she's really in love with Edgar Bergen, playing himself. [Bergen was a fairly lousy ventriloquist and his obviously moving lips are a perpetual distraction. In any case Bergen's dummies, especially Charlie McCarthy, exhibit much more personality than he does.] You Can't Cheat an Honest Man only really comes alive in the final quarter, when Fields arrives at the home of his future son-in-law's snobbish parents (Thurston Hall and Mary Forbes). He has a hilarious ping pong game in a scene that also features the amusing Jan Duggan [Cleopatra Pepperday in The Old-Fashioned Way.] Grady Sutton [The Bank Dick] and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson are also in the cast.

Verdict: You can't beat Fields playing ping pong! **1/2.

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