W.C. Fields: Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

Poster - Never Give a Sucker an Even Break_01

October 10 is the anniversary of the release date of W.C. Fields’ last and craziest starring vehicle Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941).

The film is virtually plotless stream-of-consciousness, which is one of it charms. Fields, who wrote the story under the pseudonym “Otis Cribblecoblis” indulges himself to an unprecedented degree, making for a movie easily as crazy as the Marx Brothers’ early Paramounts.  The meat of the picture is a film-within-the-film being pitched by Fields to Franklin Pangborn as the head of Esoteric Pictures. The film stars The Great Man himself, and rising star Gloria Jean as his niece.

The action begins on an airplane (one that has an observation deck on the back just like a train). Fields falls off the plane trying to retrieve his fumbled whiskey flask, but fortunately lands on a pleateau where a dowager named Mrs. Hemoglobin (Margaret Dumont) lives with her virginal daughter. Fields hatches a scheme to marry the wealthy woman, but Gloria Jean (who has joined him by now) counsels him against it. By this point, back in the “present” Pangborn is fed up, and throws Fields out of his office. The climax of the film (because a film is supposed to have a climax) is a hilariously inorganic, grafted-on rescue, with Fields rushing a woman to the hospital.

The film is directed by frequent Fields collaborator Eddie Cline, and also features fellow vet Leon Errol.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my 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


  1. I’d particularly liked its odd stream-of-consciousness flow. I did have to spend the first reel or so trying to figure out where any of this was going, before I finally realized: it doesn’t matter, just let W C Fields do his business and trust in his ability.


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