With W.C. Fields, Kathleen Howard, Jean Rouverol, Tammany Young, Charles Sellon, Tommy Bupp
Directed by Norman McLeod
Black and White
Reviewed by JL and JB

Title shot     IT'S A GIFT is regarded by many as W.C. Fields' finest film (I prefer THE BANK DICK, but I won't quibble).  In addition to its many classic comedy scenes, the film is also Fields' best use of pathos.  Harold Bissonette is less a charlatan than most of Fields' characters, a man who seems to want to do right by his family (as long as he doesn't have to work too hard in doing so), but is continually thwarted by an overbearing wife, rude neighbors, traveling salesmen, and customers who break things in the small general store he owns.  His dreams of owning an orange grove in California are apparently dashed once he discovers he's purchased a barren plot of land, but a feelgood ending is provided by a deus ex machina in the form of a helpful neighbor. Was there ever a more poignant or well-acted moment in a Fields film than his moment of indecision with the tiny orange he finds on his worthless land?  - JL

     IT'S A GIFT or THE BANK DICK?  DUCK SOUP or A NIGHT AT THE OPERA?  Eva Longoria or Evangeline Lilly?  Who cares?  Let's just say IT'S A GIFT is Field's best film done at Paramount and be done with it.  Scene after scene, line after line, IT'S A GIFT is as classic a comedy as was ever made, and Harold Bissonette is Fields' most sympathetic character.  You won't find too many funnier scenes in film comedy than Bissonette's morning in his grocery store, which could be cut from the film wholesale and play as Field's greatest short.  I say you won't find many funnier scenes, but wouldn't you know it, you will find one in this film:  The back porch scene in which Bissonette tries unsuccessfully to catch a few hours of sleep, only to be thwarted by neighborhood noises, strange visitors, and Baby LeRoy and his grapes.  This routine is so perfect and so jam-packed with memorable moments ("I'm looking for Carl LaFong.  LaFong, Capital L, small a, Capital F...") it's literally a show stopper, and, not unlike Bisonnette's jalopy, the film itself takes a while before it gets cranked up again.  Luckily the film does not have far to go from the porch scene, but that is one flaw that could be pointed to in the argument between IT'S A GIFT and THE BANK DICK.  But I still have not made up my mind yet on this question. 

     On the other questions, it's  A NIGHT AT THE OPERA and Evangeline Lilly.  Now how about my kumquats?! - JB


"Why were you sitting there like a stone image when those men were insulting me?"
"I was just waiting for one of 'em to say something to me."

W. C. Fields     The Age of Comedy