It's a Gift (1934)

67-68, 70 or 73 mins | Comedy | 30 November 1934

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HISTORY

The working title of the film was Back Porch . Charles Bogle, who is credited as story writer, was a pseudonym of W. C. Fields. Several sources list Morgan Wallace's character as "Jasper Fitchmueller." Contemporary sources note the similarity between the storyline of this film and Fields's 1926 It's the Old Army Game (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.2772). A contemporary reviewer in Var felt that this film was inappropriate for "polite houses" due to several scenes, among them, the one in which Bissonette shares the bathroom mirror with his daughter. Modern sources include the following cast credits: Bud Fine ( Driver ), Eddie Baker ( Yard attendant ) and Buster, a dog. While the press book notes that this is Baby LeRoy's first speaking role in a film, the pressbook for the film Miss Fane's Baby Is Stolen (see below) claims that the film documents the first word spoken by Baby LeRoy. According to a modern source, the porch scene was filmed at Lasky Ranch, and the last scene was shot at Fields's home in Encino, CA. In addition, modern sources note that actress Jean Rouveral apparently won her role in this film as part of Paramount's "Search for Beauty" contest. Modern sources also claim that gossip regarding Fields's "spiking" of Baby LeRoy's milk derived from the set of this ... More Less

The working title of the film was Back Porch . Charles Bogle, who is credited as story writer, was a pseudonym of W. C. Fields. Several sources list Morgan Wallace's character as "Jasper Fitchmueller." Contemporary sources note the similarity between the storyline of this film and Fields's 1926 It's the Old Army Game (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.2772). A contemporary reviewer in Var felt that this film was inappropriate for "polite houses" due to several scenes, among them, the one in which Bissonette shares the bathroom mirror with his daughter. Modern sources include the following cast credits: Bud Fine ( Driver ), Eddie Baker ( Yard attendant ) and Buster, a dog. While the press book notes that this is Baby LeRoy's first speaking role in a film, the pressbook for the film Miss Fane's Baby Is Stolen (see below) claims that the film documents the first word spoken by Baby LeRoy. According to a modern source, the porch scene was filmed at Lasky Ranch, and the last scene was shot at Fields's home in Encino, CA. In addition, modern sources note that actress Jean Rouveral apparently won her role in this film as part of Paramount's "Search for Beauty" contest. Modern sources also claim that gossip regarding Fields's "spiking" of Baby LeRoy's milk derived from the set of this film. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Sep 34
p. 3.
Daily Variety
12 Oct 34
p. 3.
Daily Variety
8 Nov 34
p. 3.
Film Daily
17 Nov 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 34
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
15 Sep 34
p. 42.
Motion Picture Herald
24 Nov 34
p. 39.
New York Times
5 Jan 35
p. 20.
Variety
8 Jan 35
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
Contr to spec seq
Contr to spec seq
Contr to spec seq
Contr to spec seq
Contr to trmt
Contr to trmt
Contr to trmt
Contr to trmt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
SOUND
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Comic Supplement (of American Life) by J. P. McEvoy (Washington, D.C., 19 Jan 1925).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Back Porch
Release Date:
30 November 1934
Production Date:
4 September--12 October 1934
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
30 November 1934
Copyright Number:
LP5135
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
67-68, 70 or 73
Length(in reels):
7
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
343
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In New Jersey, inept storekeeper Harold Bissonette is constantly badgered by his domineering wife Amelia, his obnoxious son Norman and his lovestruck daughter Mildred. When his Uncle Bean dies, Harold uses his $5,000 inheritance to buy an orange ranch in California through Mildred's boyfriend, John Durston, but does not tell Amelia. In the meantime, life's little details continually frustrate Harold. After several catastrophes at his store, variously involving a child, a blind man and molasses, he goes home to a wife who nags throughout the night. Harold tries to sleep on the balcony, where noisy neighbors, children and the milkman contrive to keep him awake. When John finds out that the ranch is no good for growing oranges, he tells Harold, who refuses to believe him. Harold packs up his family and they journey to California in a broken-down "flivver," running into a number of escapades en route. The property in California turns out to be a run-down shack surrounded by acres of dirt and weeds. Amelia furiously takes the children and begins walking off, leaving Harold behind with his faithful dog. Just then their neighbor, Clarence Abernathy, drives up to tell Harold that two racetrack owners are coming to buy Harold's property. The men offer him $25,000 for the land, but despite Amelia's harassment, Harold holds out until he gets $44,000 for Abernathy's commission and a successful orange ranch for himself. In the end, Harold leads a leisurely life as owner of Bissonette's Bluebird Oranges, gaining the peace he so needs while his wife and children attend social ... +


In New Jersey, inept storekeeper Harold Bissonette is constantly badgered by his domineering wife Amelia, his obnoxious son Norman and his lovestruck daughter Mildred. When his Uncle Bean dies, Harold uses his $5,000 inheritance to buy an orange ranch in California through Mildred's boyfriend, John Durston, but does not tell Amelia. In the meantime, life's little details continually frustrate Harold. After several catastrophes at his store, variously involving a child, a blind man and molasses, he goes home to a wife who nags throughout the night. Harold tries to sleep on the balcony, where noisy neighbors, children and the milkman contrive to keep him awake. When John finds out that the ranch is no good for growing oranges, he tells Harold, who refuses to believe him. Harold packs up his family and they journey to California in a broken-down "flivver," running into a number of escapades en route. The property in California turns out to be a run-down shack surrounded by acres of dirt and weeds. Amelia furiously takes the children and begins walking off, leaving Harold behind with his faithful dog. Just then their neighbor, Clarence Abernathy, drives up to tell Harold that two racetrack owners are coming to buy Harold's property. The men offer him $25,000 for the land, but despite Amelia's harassment, Harold holds out until he gets $44,000 for Abernathy's commission and a successful orange ranch for himself. In the end, Harold leads a leisurely life as owner of Bissonette's Bluebird Oranges, gaining the peace he so needs while his wife and children attend social functions. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.