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You Can't Cheat an Honest Man

USA 1939
produced by
Lester Cowan for Universal
directed by George Marshall
starring W.C. Fields, Edgar Bergen & his dummy Charlie McCarthy, Constance Moore, John Arledge, James Bush, Thurston Hall, Mary Forbes, Edward Brophy, Arthur Hohl, Princess Baba, Blacaman. Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson
story by Charles Bogle (= W.C. Fields), screenplay by Everett Freeman, Richard Mack, George Marion jr, music by Frank Skinner

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Larson E. Whipsnade (W.C. Fields) runs a circus - and in this capacity he's running away from the law most of the time, his circus always in tow, because there is hardly a town he hits he won't leave again with yet more debts.

Presently he returns to the town he has left his daughter Vicky (Constance Moore) in to go to college. She would rather travelled with him, but he figured a good education would be the better alternative. Vicky visits him at the circus and promptly falls in love with the Great Edgar (Edgar Bergen), who performs a ventriloquist act with his dummy Charlie McCarthy, a duo Whipsnade is actually less than fond of - but that feeling is mutual.

Vicky is so infatuated with Edgar that she plans to travel with the circus no matter what - but then she learns about her father's debts, and just to help out she agrees into marrying Roger Bel-Goodie, a dull and arrogant millionaire's son, just for her father's sake. Whipsnade is totally in favour of her marrying into money, so he gets rid of Edgar and Charlie by marooning them in a floating balloon.

On her way to the wedding, Vicky is held up by Edgar parachuting right into her car to save himself from the balloon, and then the two get arrested for a couple of hours. Meanwhile, Whipsnade has arrived at the Bel-Goodies and made a mess out of the whole situation when his carnival barker-manners don't go too well with Roger's snooty parents (Thurston Hall, Mary Forbes), and when Vicky finally arrives, the Bel-Goodies are already in the process of throwing Whipsnade out. Disappointed by Roger, the man she never loved in the first place, Vicky calls the whole thing off to rather be thrown out with her dad than becoming as horrible as the family she was going to marry into. And in the end, she finds happiness with Edgar, too.


Ok, the plot of this film is pretty much as clichéed as can be, but that's pretty much besides the point because more than anything else, the film is W.C. Fields' loving hommage to his own past with travelling circusses and a steady succession of pretty good gags - and for a change, Fields, not exactly a teamplayer when it comes to comedy, harmonizes very well with his comic co-star, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen - maybe because the two men had had a chance of getting used to each other for the last few years when Fields became a semi-regular on Bergen's (and Charlie McCarthy's) radio show after his illness and the termination of his contract with Paramount.

In all, this is certainly not Fields' best film, as it lacks the hint of ingenuity that made his masterpieces so hilarious, but it's pretty amusing still.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD