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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

YOU'RE TELLING ME (1934)

W. C. Fields’ sound remake of SO’S YOUR OLD MAN/’26 lies a couple of steps below IT’S A GIFT/’34 and THE MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE/’35, his most uproarious small-town domestic horrors . . but it’ll do. In this one, Fields owns a shop, but lives for his inventions, much to the distress of his social climbing wife. As always, there’s a sweet daughter, but she’s engaged to sleek upper-cruster Buster Crabbe whose family disapprove of the great man. Director Erle Kenton can’t get much going in the film’s first half, though Fields dawdles amusingly. But once that Fieldsian deus ex machina, Princess Lescaboura, enters the picture, the pieces come hilariously together. (Hard to believe, but this bit of pure Fieldsian whimsy actually comes out of the novel both films were adapted from.) Adrienne Ames is a positive delight as the Princess; finally, a lovely woman who ‘gets’ all of Fields’ gags, giving the silly plot turns a real lift. Then, it’s off to the country club for the third (and possibly best) filming of Fields’ famous golf routine; a masterclass in comic frustration/procrastination that’s still gut-bustingly funny.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The film opens with a portly gentlemen in profile walking home as Gounod’s ‘March of a Marionette’ plays on the soundtrack. Of course, it’s Fields who’s sneaking back home, but it might as well be Alfred Hitchcock coming on to introduce his tv show.

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