W.C. Fields in “The Old Fashioned Way”

oldfashionedway

July 13 is the anniversary of the release date of the W.C. Fields comedy The Old Fashioned Way (1934), directed by William Beaudine.

This is one of the best movies ever for Fields fans, but also for lovers of vaudeville, trouping and old-time melodrama. Fields plays the Great McGonnigle, leader of a traveling 19th century theatre troupe, always one step ahead of the sheriff. As he frequently does in his pictures, Fields plays a widower with a daughter (Judith Allen). In this one he romances a local rich widow (Jan Duggan) and gives her a part in his production of The Drunkard and also gives a part to rich young man (Joe Morrison) who is in love with his daughter, thus simultaneously alienating the local sheriff (slated to marry the widow) and the rich boy’s powerful father. Baby LeRoy is the widow’s toddler; the film contains several famous, oft-excerpted scenes of the tot torturing Fields.

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There are also a couple of straight musical numbers, which is unusual in a Fields film. Half the movie is given over to the production of The Drunkard followed by rare scenes of Fields re-creating his vaudeville juggling act, making this film doubly invaluable.

Fields as the melodrama villain in "The Drunkard"
Fields as the melodrama villain in “The Drunkard”

In the end, McGonnigle’s tour is cancelled and he pretends to have gotten an offer from New York, so his daughter is able to marry her beau. In a brief epilogue Field is seen hawking patent medicine in the street.

For more on silent and slapstick comedy don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc. For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

 

7 comments

  1. There’s a number of lines and bits, and a few costumes in this film leftover from the Broadway run of Poppy. The coat Fields wears is from that show, as is the coat he wears as his “parading outfit”. Also from Poppy is the bit where he sits on knitting needles and the fake ringlet of hair, plus “It cures hoarseness!”

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  2. One of the things I love about this movie is the moment when the Boy’s Father is going on about what a crook and loser Fields is – as Fields listens in the next room. Fields’ response? A sad smile and a quiet, “A very blunt fellow.”

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  3. Thank you dear Trav, for your continued loyalty to the great artistry of my grandfather, W.C. Fields. Please all do visit our Official W.C. Fields Web site http://www.wcfields.com for latest news, information, rare family photos, and so much more.

    Please see our Official W.C. Fields Facebook accessible through http://www.wcfields.com. Like Us there and follow us on Twitter.

    Warm regards ,
    Harriet
    (Dr. Harriet A. Fields, Vice-president, W.C. Fields Productions, Inc.)

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