Sunday, August 5, 2012
|5:30 p.m.||Never Give a Sucker an Even Break|
Edward Cline (U.S., 1941)
“That’s too much! Airplanes with sundecks! Russian villages in the sky! Gorillas playing post office!” Thus is W.C. Fields’s screenplay-within-a-film characterized by a producer at “Esoteric Pictures”—a cynical version of Universal Studios. Reflecting on fame, filmmaking, and (inevitably) drink, this vaudeville 8 1/2 is a fantasy unmade. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break opens with a caricature of Fields: it is a token of the film’s cartoon logic, which enables countless set-pieces, from Gloria Jean’s bizarre, polyglot musical numbers; to Fields’s personal gravity, which allows him to leap from an airplane in pursuit of parachuting tipple; to the justly famous car chase through Los Angeles, which makes Bullitt look frankly pedestrian.
• Written by John T. Neville, Prescott Chaplin. Photographed by Charles Van Enger. With W. C. Fields, Gloria Jean, Leon Errol, Margaret Dumont. (70 mins, B&W, 35mm)