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Mary (Jacqueline Wells) and Tom (Clifford Jones) are about to lose
everything including their ferry line franchise thanks to their lawyer
Phineas Pratt (Clarence Wilson), who desperately tries to cheat them out
of all of their money, especially Mary's parents' inheritance. Enter
Tillie (Alison Skipworth) and Gus (W.C. Fields), Mary's aunt and uncle
whom everyone thought to have been missionaries in China while they
actually toured the country gambling and cheating. It takes one crook to
know one though, and Tillie and Gus soon see through Phineas Pratt's game
- and prevent Mary from selling her franchise to Pratt.
and Tillie, Mary and Tom agree to put the ferry line franchise at stake at
a boat race, their old riverboat versus Pratt's all-new steamer. It seems
an unfair fight to start with, but Gus and Tillie use every trick in the
book to turn fate in their favour, and they also save Mary and Tom's baby
(Baby LeRoy) along the way. In the end though, the race is decided in Mary
and Tom's favour when Tom accidently feeds his boat's burner with 4th of
July-fireworks, which not only speed up their trip but also shoot the
other boat out of commission.
And in the end, Phineas Pratt is forced to
admit to his foul play when trying to get his hands on Mary's parents
The first sound feature film that has comedian W.C.
Fields top-billed, and also the first sound feature he had a certain
creative control over - and yet it's not one of his better films, as the
whole concept of the film seems to be just a bit too far-fetched, seems to
be disjointed at parts, puts too little drama on its centerpiece, the
boatrace, and as a whole seems to be almost too harmless for a man of
Fields' offensive humour. That all said, there are still plenty of fun
scenes in Tillie and Gus, but no too memorable setpieces, and as a
matter of fact, Fields has been funnier in a lot of his other films.