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Review: W.C. Fields' Final Film, 'Never Give A Sucker An Even Break' A Hilarious Bow; Now on Blu-ray

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jul 14, 2020
Review: W.C. Fields' Final Film, 'Never Give A Sucker An Even Break' A Hilarious Bow; Now on Blu-ray

It's very ironic that W.C. Fields' last starring role was in a film that defied the laws of narrative filmmaking, as Fields himself was a performer that worked to defy all the laws of gravity to get a laugh. In "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break," a hodgepodge of slapstick with a thin narrative thread running between gags, Fields was given the unique chance to show off his talent with physical comedy while showing how much his career has worn him down. You can feel every hit, kick and punch in this film, which lends the proceedings a melancholy quality.

Now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label, this Edward F. Cline-directed comedy is proof that providing gag after gag is not only enough to sustain an entire film, but that filmmaking itself may be better off by taking its notes. Presented here with sturdy video and audio presentations, "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break" will hopefully pick up some viewers as it arrives on the home video market, as it's a hoot and a half. Add in a near-hour-long vintage documentary about Fields and you have a release that comes recommended.

W.C. Fields plays himself as he pitches a script to Esoteric Pictures' Franklin Pangborn. As he reads the script, Fields' own ideas come to life and he's thrown into a whirlwind of gags that include Gloria Jean, Margaret Dumont, and other big players from that era of Hollywood.

"Never Give a Sucker an Even Break" predates other films that lampoon Hollywood, like "Blazing Saddles," and it's anchored with a comedic energy that was unique to Fields himself. That makes sense given that Fields wrote the script for the film under the name Otis Criblecoblis. It's a go-for-broke script and performance that almost never loses steam, which can be partially attributed to the fact that each and every stunt has a palpable sense of danger. While I'm not very educated on Fields' talents, this gives you a good idea of the power he had to make people laugh amidst all of the pomp and circumstance of old Hollywood.

As for special features, there's a great vintage documentary from Canadian comedians Wayne and Shuster as they appreciate W.C. Fields with a clip show of his most famous gags. Wayne and Shuster supply some nice commentary to the gags and it makes for a pretty easygoing time, although it's not the deepest exploration of Fields. Other special features include:

• Audio commentary by film historian Eddie Von Mueller
• Trailers

"Never Give a Sucker an Even Break"
Kino Lorber Blu-ray

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