Man on the Flying Trapeze
William LeBaron for Paramount
directed by Clyde Bruckman, W.C. Fields (uncredited)
starring W.C. Fields, Mary Brian, Kathleen Howard, Grady Sutton, Vera Lewis, Lucien Littlefield, Oscar Apfel, Lew Kelly, Tammany Young, Walter Brennan, Edward Gargan, James Burke, Carlotta Monti, Eddy Chandler, Michael Visaroff, Tor Johnson, Harry Ekezian, David Clyde, Mickey McMasters, Lorin Raker, Helen Dickson, Arthur Aylesworth, James Flavin
story by W.C. Fields (as Charles Bogle), Sam Hardy, screenplay by Ray Harris, Sam Hardy
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Hen-pecked husband Ambrose Wolfinger (W.C. Fields) is forced to go down
into the basement by his wife (Kathleen Howard) one night to check for
some funny noises - and he finds a couple of burglars (Tammany Young,
Walter Brennan) and a policeman in his cellar, drinking his moonshine and
singing. Naturally, Ambrose joins in until his wife forces him to bring
the burglars to the police - but in the end he gets arrested himself for
illegally distilling brandy.
His wife and her mother (Vera Lewis) are
shocked and ashamed by this change of events and refuse to help him, but
his daughter from his first marriage Hope (Mary Brian) bails Ambrose out.
wants to go to a wrestling match that day, and thus he invents an
elaborate lie to get the afternoon off, a lie that his mother-in-law has
died - but then his ticket for the event was stolen from his
good-for-nothing brother-in-law Claude (Grady Sutton), and he arrives too
late on the scene to get another one - but he still gets a wrestler (Tor
Johnson) thrown onto him ...
When the wife and mother-in-law learn that
he has told everyone that the mother-in-law has died (which had been blown
out of proportion by his employer) just to get drunk at the wrestling
match (which he didn't, but Claude told it that way), Ambrose gets thrown
out of his home, and he loses his job for lying to get the afternoon off -
but when it's found out how indispensable he is for his company, he gets
his job back at a much higher pay, and living without him opens his wife's
yes to the fact that her mother and brother are nothing but parasites who
have been living off him while never stopping to complain about him, which
has put a major strain about their relationship ...
being very funny, this is an early example of situation comedy, and how it
should be handled: There is no narrative setup in this film, and it
doesn't need one, in stead it starts on a gag that is not only pretty
hilarious, it also introduces the main characters in a very unintrusive
way. Following this, extended gags and funny sequences are just lined up
next to one another, scenes that at first sight have extremely little to
do with one another, but taken as a whole, they tell the story
nevertheless. And while the film's direction might best be described
functional, it also doesn't gloss over the often enjoyably raw jokes and
shows expert timing nevertheless.
And all of this makes this film above
everything great fun.