7.2/10
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Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)

Passed | | Comedy, Musical | 10 October 1941 (USA)
A filmmaker attempts to sell a surreal script he has written, which comes to life as he pitches it.

Director:

Edward F. Cline (as Edward Cline)

Writers:

John T. Neville (screen play), Prescott Chaplin (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
W.C. Fields ... The Great Man
Gloria Jean ... Gloria
Leon Errol ... The Rival
Billy Lenhart Billy Lenhart ... Butch (as Butch)
Kenneth Brown Kenneth Brown ... Buddy (as Buddy)
Margaret Dumont ... Mrs. Hemogloben
Susan Miller ... Ouilotta Hemogloben
Franklin Pangborn ... The Producer
Mona Barrie ... The Producer's Wife
Charles Lang ... Pete Carson
Anne Nagel ... Madame Gorgeous
Nell O'Day ... The Salesgirl
Irving Bacon ... The Soda Jerk
Jody Gilbert ... The Waitress
Minerva Urecal ... The Cleaning Woman
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Storyline

Fields wants to sell a film story to Esoteric Studios. On the way he gets insulted by little boys, beat up for ogling a woman, and abused by a waitress. He becomes his niece's guardian when her mother is killed in a trapeze fall during the making of a circus movie. He and his niece, who he finds at a shooting gallery, fly to Mexico to sell wooden nutmegs in a Russian colony. Trying to catch his bottle as it falls from the plane, he lands on a mountain peak where lives the man- eating Mrs. Hemogloben. When he gets to the Russian colony he finds Leon Errol (father of the insulting boys and owner of the shooting gallery) already selling wooden nutmegs. He decides to woo the wealthy Mrs. Hemogloben but when he gets there Errol has preceded him. The Mexican adventure is the story that Esoteric Studios would not buy. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

IT'S A FIELDS-DAY OF FUN! (original poster-all caps) See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Musical

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 October 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Great Man See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film marks the second attempt (after "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man") by W. C. Fields to get the "Madame Gorgeous" plot line into a film. She was supposed to be either his wife (in "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man") or his sister (here) and would die in a fall during a high-wire circus act. The "plant" for her death, in which Fields warns Gorgeous (Anne Nagel) about the risk involved in doing the act as stunt double for a star in a circus film, remains in the film but the actual death does not because once again Universal's executives insisted that such a tragic scene did not belong in a comedy. See more »

Goofs

At the drug store the register changes from 10 cents to no sale, back to 10 cents and finally 15. Also at the end of the scene the soda jerk has a fly crawling down his face, but when he hits it with a bottle the fly is gone. See more »

Quotes

The Great Man: [to an Englishman who has a limp in his walk] Whatsa matter? Did you sprain your ankle?
Bitten Englishman: No, no, no. A dog bit, bit me.
The Great Man: Oh.
Bitten Englishman: Yeah, I was playing, uh, croquet and I, and I dropped my mallet. And, uh, a little dachshund ran straight out and uh, and, and grabbed me by the fetlock.
[Bending over to point to his ankle]
The Great Man: Oh.
[Looking BEHIND him in the bent-over position]
The Great Man: Rather fortunate it wasn't a Newfoundland dog that bit you.
Bitten Englishman: Uh, yes, rahther.
The Great Man: Yeah.
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film opens with W. C. Fields' credit as star over a cartoon caricature of him. Then the chest of the character expands to bloated proportions, and the title of the film is printed on Fields' huge cartoon chest. See more »


Soundtracks

OCHI TCHORNYA (DARK EYES)
(uncredited)
Arranged from Russian ballad by Harry Horlick, Gregory Stone
Sung by Gloria Jean
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Almost perfect; 9/10
27 June 2001 | by zetesSee all my reviews

One of Fields' best (is there anything that's not?), Never Give a Sucker an Even Break is basically his swan song. Never again would he star in a motion picture. And it is a glorious swan song, nearly as funny as his greatest film, The Bank Dick. It may even be his second best film, although several fight for that position: The Old-Fashioned Way, It's a Gift, You're Telling Me, The Man on the Flying Trapeze, etc.

In a somewhat mournful way, the plot revolves around Fields, playing himself, trying to sell a script to a producer played by Franklin Pangborn (a bit confusing, seeing he retains his real name; Franklin Pangborn was an actor, though, not a producer). The film Fields wants to make is a lot like many other classic comedies: a bunch of gags strung together in a haphazard fashion. Part of the joke is that the plot doesn't exist as such. Tastes were changing at the time, and Pangborn is flabberghasted at the nonsensical plot. The funniest moments of Never Give a Sucker an Even Break take place as Fields' own screenplay plays out.

Like a lot of classic comedies, this one is also part musical, but unlike those same comedies, the music in this film isn't painful to sit through (I'm lookin' at you, Marx Brothers!). It's actually quite marvelous. The songs are sung by Gloria Jean, a teenager playing Fields' niece. She is beautiful and a wonderful singer. She's also quite funny when the film gives her that chance (her audition for Pangborn is gold). Also joining the cast is the Marx Brothers' favorite foil, Margaret Dumont, playing a woman who hates men so much she brought her daughter up on top of a steep precipice to raise her without the impediment of that gender.


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