Sensations of 1945

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Sensations of 1945 contains W.C. Fields’ last film performance. Like many an actors’ swan song it has a reputation for being weak and sub-par, and while I’d never argue otherwise, I would offer up redeeming features. There is something vital about the fact that it bravely breaks some new ground. Unlike Follow the Boys, which contains the umpeenth revival of the pool routine, and Song of the Open Road, in which he essentially just horses around for the camera a little, in Sensations of 1945, for the first time in ages and ages, Fields adapts one of his old Broadway revue sketches, debuting it for film. In this case it is “The Caledonian Express”, a sketch he had presented in Earl Carroll’s Vanities in 1928. Essentially the thrust of it is that Fields and a companion occupy a British railway compartment reserved for someone else and haughtily refuse to budge. The scene is presented as a “play within a play”, in other words, it is done as a stage sketch in the context of putting on a show by a father-and-son show biz agency and the dancer (Eleanor Powell) who is helping to spruce up their operation.

Fields was very infirm during the filming of this sketch, and had trouble both memorizing his lines and reading the cue cards that were being used to assist him. He died nearly a year and a half after its release, on Christmas Day, 1946.

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