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The Bank Dick

USA 1940
produced by
Cliff Work (executive) for Universal
directed by Edward F. Cline
starring W.C. Fields, Cora Witherspoon, Una Merkel, Evelyn Del Rio, Jessie Ralph, Franklin Pangborn, Shemp Howard, Dick Purcell, Grady Sutton, Russell Hicks, Pierre Watkin, Al Hill, George Moran, Bill Wolfe, Jack Norton, Pat West, Reed Hadley, Heather Wilde, Harlan Briggs, William Alston
written by Mahatma Kane Jeeves (= W.C. Fields), music by Frank Skinner

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Rather by accident, Egbert Sousé (W.C. Fields) is credited with capturing a bank robber (George Moran) - he didn't, but that's another story -, and is thus made detective of the bank that was robbed. When he brags about it in a bar, this conversation is overheard by a con-man, who soon enough tries to sell him shares in a worhtless mine. Sousé doesn't have money to buy them himself, but he persuades Oggilby (Grady Sutton), his daughter's (Una Merkel) and a clerk in the bank he works for, to invest in the mine, even if that means he has to borrow the money needed from the bank ...

As soon as the con-man is off with the bank's money though, an auditor (Frank Pangborn) shows up at the bank's doorstep to check the bank's books, and while Oggilby pretty much loses his nerves over it, Sousé makes up a plan to put the auditor out of commission - by taking him to his favourite bar and getting him horribly drunk. Despite his best efforts though, the trick doesn't work and the auditor does show up the very next day, despite a hangover that could have lasted him a week.

When everything seems lost, out of the blue the mine Oggilby has bought a share in turns out to be a goldmine (excuse the pun), which means he could settle the bank's accounts easily - but then another bankrobber (Al Hill) shows up, takes not only the bank's money but also the shares, and takes Sousé as hostage and getaway car driver with him. However, Sopusé's unorthodox driving soon breaks down the car while actually still driving and knocks the bank robber out rather accidently, and eventually, Sousé ends up with the reward money for capturing the bank robber, a share in Oggilby's shares which the boy granted his dad-in-law to be in gratitude, and m,oney for a filmscript he has sold against all odds ...

Shemp Howard plays Sousé's favourite barman.


This film takes a while to kick into gear: It starts out with Fields being the henpecked husband yet again, but that has no connection to the plot following, is more a hommage by Fields to himself, and is actually not all that funny. Next there is a scene where Fields tricks his way into taking over direction of a motion picture, which is at best mildly amusing and has again has no connection to the actual plot. It's at this point you might already feel slightly disappointed - but when the actual story about Fields' career as bank dick with all its often impossible complications sets in, Fields gets back to top form easily, mixing slapstick, sight gags and hilarious oneliners hilariously and dousing everything in a vat full of alcohol.

In all, the film might not be Fields' best one, mainly due to its slow start, but it's immensely funny still.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Tales to Chill
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directed by
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