Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

  • 1941
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy

The great W.C. Fields at his wild antics again, this time spoofing Hollywood, or at least the insanity of producing films as he perceived it. Fields was later accused of biting the hand that fed him, but he gnawed on anything that moved anyway, while providing one belly laugh after another. Many of Fields's comedies mix sentiment, satire and surrealism,...read more

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The great W.C. Fields at his wild antics again, this time spoofing Hollywood, or at least the insanity of producing films as he perceived it. Fields was later accused of biting the hand that fed him, but he gnawed on anything that moved anyway, while providing one belly laugh after

another. Many of Fields's comedies mix sentiment, satire and surrealism, and this one is no exception--it simply goes further in almost every direction possible. Thus, while it is not his best film, it is pure Fields. Much of the "plot" consists of Fields trying to pitch a story to a Hollywood

producer (Pangborn), though this is not made immediately clear to viewers. Memorable moments include Fields's encounter with an obnoxious greasy-spoon waitress (Jody Gilbert); his diving out of an airplane in mid-flight to retrieve (successfully!) a bottle of booze he has accidentally dropped; his

encounters with a gorilla and with Ouliotta Delight Hemogloben (Miller) and her man-hungry matron of a mother (the peerless Dumont); and a crazy car chase en route to a maternity ward.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of sense, the great comedian provides so much offbeat humor that the plotlessness makes little difference. Oddly, this spoof of Hollywood realistically capped Fields's own movie career. The great comedian had pretty much run out his options in Hollywood by

the time of NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK and knew that Universal was planning to sidetrack his career in favor of the more slapstick Abbott and Costello, the dynamic duo who would dominate comedy at the studio through the 1940s. In this film Fields thumbs his considerable nose at the industry

that was ousting him. Fields had insisted that this film be called THE GREAT MAN; unhappy with the title NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK, he later commented: "It doesn't matter anyway. Their title won't fit on a marquee, so they'll cut it down to `W.C. Fields--Sucker.'"

Fields wrote the script in about four months and it brought a wrathful response from the Hollywood's Breen Office, which labeled the screenplay "vulgar and suggestive" and claimed that Fields made too many references to drinking and liquor. Out came the scissors, but Fields got revenge of sorts.

In one scene in the film he turns directly to the camera and whines: "This scene was supposed to be in a saloon but the censor cut it out. It'll play just as well." Later the script was "cleaned up" by a bevy of hack writers assigned by Universal. "They produced the worst script I ever read. I was

going to throw it in their faces," Fields stated, "when the director (Cline) told me not to. He said: `We'll shoot your own script. They won't know the difference.' We did--and they didn't."

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  • Review: The great W.C. Fields at his wild antics again, this time spoofing Hollywood, or at least the insanity of producing films as he perceived it. Fields was later accused of biting the hand that fed him, but he gnawed on anything that moved anyway, while provi… (more)

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