With W.C. Fields, Gloria Jean, Franklin Pangborn, Margaret Dumont, Leon Erroll
Directed by Edward Cline
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

      NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK is THE BANK DICK a few drinks later.  It lacks even a minor plot point like the beefsteak mines of THE BANK DICK to hold it all together.  We meet Fields, playing himself, on the streets of Hollywood where he is admiring a billboard advertising his last picture.  He then moves on to a local diner to "hide the egg and gurgitate a cup of mocha java".  The waitress, whom he affectionately calls "Blimpie-Pie", acts as if taking an order from a customer is the biggest imposition ever put on a waitress in the history of the food service industry.  After exchanging several insults with the gal and buying some imported cigars (Stingaroos - four for a nickel), Fields wanders out to Esoteric Studios where he presents a producer with his latest script.  The story, which plays out before us, is nearly as plotless and rambling as the movie it is interrupting.  When the idiocy of the script becomes too much for the producer, who calls it an "insult to any man's intelligence - even mine!", Fields is told to be on his way.   He goes for an ice cream soda and eventually winds up in a mad car chase.  The film fades out before we find out what the rest of his day is like.

     As with THE BANK DICK,  NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK is filled with sight gags, classic one-liners, funny set-pieces and more than a handful of bizarre Fields utterances.  Not as perfectly cast as his previous opus, it nevertheless features Franklin Pangborne, Margaret Dumont and Leon Erroll.  Pangborne plays a producer (named Mr. Pangborne!), a characterization easily as amusing as his bank examiner from THE BANK DICK.  Margaret Dumont is treated with the same amount of reverence and respect she normally received from Groucho Marx, but Leon Errol, a fine comedian is his own right, is given little to do. Young actress Gloria Jean, only 15 years old at the time of the movie, is cast as Fields niece named, appropriately enough, Gloria Jean.  She pretty much plays herself in a part that required her to beam in admiration at her 60-year-old alcohol-addled uncle, and she comes off as the best leading lady Fields ever had who is not named Elise Cavanna, Jean Duggan or Kathleen Howard.

       In 1941, The Marx Brothers were wasting their collective talents in THE BIG STORE at MGM while Laurel and Hardy were being abused and misused at 20th Century Fox in GREAT GUNS.  A funny yet sad milestone in comedy history, NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK was the last great comedy made by any of the superior comedians that had dominated the 1930s movie screen. 4  - JB

W. C. Fields     The Age of Comedy


"Baloney Mahoney Malarkey, ya big kabloona!"
"Kabloona?  I haven't been called that for two days."