Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)

70-70.5 mins | Comedy | 10 October 1941

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Great Man . The name of the writer credited with the film's original story, "Otis Criblecoblis," was a pseudonym for the film's star, W. C. Fields. According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Fields's original script for the film, dated 15 Apr 1941, was rejected by the PCA as being "filled with vulgar and suggestive scenes and dialogue" as well as containing "innumerable jocular references to drinking and liquor." The Hays office also objected to references to the producer's character, played in the film by actor Franklin Pangborn, as a "pansy," and scenes in which the stage directions had Fields' character leering at women's legs and breasts. A revised script, dated 5 Jun 1941, was later approved by the PCA.
       This was the final film to feature W. C. Fields in a starring role. According to modern sources, it was the last picture in a four-film contract between Fields and Universal, which paid him $25,000 for the story idea and another $125,000 for his performance. Modern sources also claim that the character of "Madame Gorgeous," Gloria Jean's mother in the film, was to have died in the film-within-a- film sequence, with Fields taking over as the young girl's guardian; in the released film, however, "Madame Gorgeous" simply disappears without explanation.
       While HR production charts include Baby Sandy in the cast, the child did not appear in the released film. HR production charts also include Beatrice Roberts in the cast, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Harriette ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Great Man . The name of the writer credited with the film's original story, "Otis Criblecoblis," was a pseudonym for the film's star, W. C. Fields. According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Fields's original script for the film, dated 15 Apr 1941, was rejected by the PCA as being "filled with vulgar and suggestive scenes and dialogue" as well as containing "innumerable jocular references to drinking and liquor." The Hays office also objected to references to the producer's character, played in the film by actor Franklin Pangborn, as a "pansy," and scenes in which the stage directions had Fields' character leering at women's legs and breasts. A revised script, dated 5 Jun 1941, was later approved by the PCA.
       This was the final film to feature W. C. Fields in a starring role. According to modern sources, it was the last picture in a four-film contract between Fields and Universal, which paid him $25,000 for the story idea and another $125,000 for his performance. Modern sources also claim that the character of "Madame Gorgeous," Gloria Jean's mother in the film, was to have died in the film-within-a- film sequence, with Fields taking over as the young girl's guardian; in the released film, however, "Madame Gorgeous" simply disappears without explanation.
       While HR production charts include Baby Sandy in the cast, the child did not appear in the released film. HR production charts also include Beatrice Roberts in the cast, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Harriette Haddon ( Redhead ), Marcia Ralston ( Stewardess ), Jean Porter ( Passerby ) and Prince ( Himself, a Great Dane ) to the cast and credit Jack Gross as line producer and Dave Sharpe with stunts. Actress Carlotta Monti, who played a small role in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break , later wrote an autobiography in which she identified herself as the mistress of the noted comedian. Entitled W. C. Fields and Me , the book was made into a motion picture in 1976, starring Rod Steiger and Valerie Perrine and directed by Arthur Hiller. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11 Oct 1941.
---
Daily Variety
6 10 1941
p. 3.
Film Daily
8 Oct 41
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 41
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 Oct 41
p. 305.
New York Times
27 Oct 41
p. 21.
Variety
8 Oct 41
p. 9.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Assoc dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
SOUND
[Sd] tech
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Wedding March (Bridal Chorus)" from the opera Lohengrin by Richard Wagner.
SONGS
"Estrelita," music and lyrics by M. M. Ponce
"Otchi Tchorniya (Dark Eyes)," traditional Russian folk song
"Comin' Thro' the Rye," music Scottish traditional, lyrics by Robert Burns.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Great Man
Release Date:
10 October 1941
Production Date:
early July--mid August 1941
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co., inc.
Copyright Date:
13 October 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10770
Physical Properties:
Silent with sound sequences
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
70-70.5
Length(in feet):
6,345
Country:
United States
PCA No:
7724
SYNOPSIS

At Esoteric Picture's West Coast studio, aspiring actress Gloria Jean tells her mother that she is more worried about her uncle than her first rehearsal, because she knows that if he sells his script, he will be able to support the whole family. Meanwhile, on his way to a script conference, W. C. "Uncle Bill" Fields stops at a café for breakfast and ends up spending the morning trading wisecracks with the overweight waitress. In a rehearsal hall, Gloria, meanwhile, practices her song under the personal supervision of producer Franklin Pangborn, who spends more time arguing with the crew than rehearsing Gloria. Outside the studio, W. C. runs into his niece, who offers him words of encouragement while two young boys, Butch and Buddy, torment him. While meeting with Pangborn, W. C. tries read his new script aloud, but is constantly interrupted by a cleaning woman. When the producer's wife hears how W. C. has written her part, she leaves in a huff. Pangborn then takes the script and begins to read it aloud himself. In the script, W. C. and Gloria are on a plane trip when W. C., after numerous misadventures with his fellow passengers, falls out of the plane's observation deck and lands on a bed in the courtyard of a mountain-top mansion. There, he meets the beautiful Ouilotta Hemogloben, who has never seen a man before. W. C. introduces her to "squidgilum," a kissing game, but when her mother, the matronly Mrs. Hemogloben, appears and wants to play as well, W. C. jumps into a basket and careens down the mountain. Pangborn, upset at the script's implausibility, stops ... +


At Esoteric Picture's West Coast studio, aspiring actress Gloria Jean tells her mother that she is more worried about her uncle than her first rehearsal, because she knows that if he sells his script, he will be able to support the whole family. Meanwhile, on his way to a script conference, W. C. "Uncle Bill" Fields stops at a café for breakfast and ends up spending the morning trading wisecracks with the overweight waitress. In a rehearsal hall, Gloria, meanwhile, practices her song under the personal supervision of producer Franklin Pangborn, who spends more time arguing with the crew than rehearsing Gloria. Outside the studio, W. C. runs into his niece, who offers him words of encouragement while two young boys, Butch and Buddy, torment him. While meeting with Pangborn, W. C. tries read his new script aloud, but is constantly interrupted by a cleaning woman. When the producer's wife hears how W. C. has written her part, she leaves in a huff. Pangborn then takes the script and begins to read it aloud himself. In the script, W. C. and Gloria are on a plane trip when W. C., after numerous misadventures with his fellow passengers, falls out of the plane's observation deck and lands on a bed in the courtyard of a mountain-top mansion. There, he meets the beautiful Ouilotta Hemogloben, who has never seen a man before. W. C. introduces her to "squidgilum," a kissing game, but when her mother, the matronly Mrs. Hemogloben, appears and wants to play as well, W. C. jumps into a basket and careens down the mountain. Pangborn, upset at the script's implausibility, stops reading, but W. C. convinces him to continue. Now in a gypsy village near the mountain, W. C. learns that Hemogloben is worth millions. As he prepares to court his future wife, Leon Errol, W. C.'s rival, climbs the mountain, only to be met near the top by a love-sick gorilla. Beating Leon to the top, W. C. and company prepare his wedding to Mrs. Hemogloben. When Leon finally does arrive, W. C. discreetly pushes him off the mountain. As the ceremony is about to begin, Gloria convinces her uncle not to marry Mrs. Hemogloben for her money, and the two make a hasty retreat to the basket and down the mountain. With that, Pangborn has had enough and fires W. C., ordering him to never step foot on the studio again. Later, while shopping with Gloria, W. C. irritates some policemen investigating a bank robbery, then mistakes another matronly woman for a pregnant one, taking her on a mad automobile ride to the maternity hospital and crashing his car just outside its entrance. As Gloria arrives by taxi and sees what her uncle has done, she looks into the camera and states, "That's my Uncle Bill...but I still love him." +

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.