Well, I guess it’s about time I finally put this one behind me. I saw W.C. Fields’ other list film, The Bank Dick, pretty early on in my quest, and pretty much hated it from square one, so I was none too thrilled to find that Fields had another in the Book for me to sit through. It’s a Gift is slightly shorter than The Bank Dick, but that didn’t mean I was any less reluctant to watch it, but seeing as how it was so short, I figured I could get myself through it if I just, well, sat through it. Amazingly enough, I actually found myself not only paying attention to this one, but actually laughing a few times, if only a scant few times.
The plot deals with Fields’ character having his uncle pass away, leaving him a bunch of money which he uses to buy an orange grove in California– oh, who are we kidding, no one cares about the plot in a W.C. Fields film. This is about Fields acting like a buffoon, dealing with his harpy of a wife, and the destructive forces that seek to make his life even harder than his bumbling persona already makes it. This has even less of an actual narrative than most; it’s basically a combination of three of his stage sketches, with a little bit of material to fill in the cracks between them. There’s a sequence where customers, including a young boy and a blind man, lay waste to his grocery store; another where his attempts at taking a nap on his back porch are constantly thwarted, and then it’s the drive out to California, where the family ends up taking a picnic on private property and causes untold chaos. Believe it or not, the gags in this one actually worked for me, unlike Fields’ later film where he was essentially nothing but a drunk idiot; here, he’s still a bit of an idiot, but it’s situational comedy instead of just relying entirely on Fields being drunk and stupid, so there’s some actual comedy to be found here. His manner of delivery, where he mutters to himself in a nasally undertone, was still a little grating, but it was acceptable given the circumstances that happen to him in the film.
Dare I say it, I actually liked this one. I was all prepared to dismiss it entirely and not even give it a chance based on how much I disliked The Bank Dick, but this grew on me enough to where I started paying actual attention to it, and I found myself smiling and even laughing at a few parts. hands tied, I’d definitely pick this one over the other Fields film as his designated slot on the list; that he got two seems to be a bit much for the comedic stylings of the man, and indeed many critics and fans will even acknowledge that Fields’ brand of comedy is better suited in smaller doses. Well, for a feature-length outing, I don’t think Fields could have done any better than this, without essentially being some other comedian and not W.C. Fields, so he gets a good hearty handshake from me on this one.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10