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The Old Fashioned Way

USA 1934
produced by
William LeBaron, Emanuel Cohen (executive) for Paramount
directed by William Beaudine
starring W.C. Fields, Joe Morrison, Judith Allen, Jan Duggan, Oscar Apfel, Nora Cecil, Baby LeRoy, Tammany Young, Jack Mulhall, Samuel Ethridge, Ruth Marion, Richard Carle, Larry Grenier, William Blatchford, Jeffrey Williams, Donald Brown, Tom Miller, Dorothy Bay, Lew Kelly
story by Charles Bogle (= W.C. Fields), screenplay by Garnett Weston, Jack Cunningham, the play-within-the-movie The Drunkard written by William H.Smith, music by John Leipold

The Drunkard

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The Great McGonigle (W.C. Fields) is the head of a travelling theatre group that's not doing especially well, so they are always on the run from the law because of unpaid hotel bills and the like. McGonigle's daughter Betty (Judith Allen) is in love with Wally Livingston (Joe Morrison), a son of a rich family who has decided to travel with McGonigle's troupe rather than continue his college education, much to the dismay of his father (Oscar Apfel).

The troupe just hits a new small town, and it doesn't take McGonigle long to get into trouble when flirting with Cleopatra Pepperday (Jan Duggan), just because she's the richest woman in town, and promising her a role in his play (though never keeping the promise) - which is a problem inasmuch as she's the girl of the local sheriff, who's more than eager to arrest McGonigle not just for that.

Plus, Wally's dad has caught up with Wally, and desperately wants to get him away from these theatre people, even though he will make his first stage appearance only tonight, in the temperance play The Drunkard.

Somehow, McGonigle manages to go through with the show anyhow, while Betty manages to convince Wally's father she's the right girl for him and to convince Wally to go back to college. In the end though, McGonigle learns that the troupe's tour has been cancelled, and since he doesn't want to stand in the way of her daughter's happiness with Wally and doesn't want to be burdened with a troupe and no shows, he makes a hasty escape that night to soon hook up with a medicine show ...


Basically, this film is a collection of vaudeville anecdotes, several of which probably based on Fields' first hand experiences - and as such, the film is pretty funny, while the play the troupe performs rather badly is funny in its own way and probably pretty authentic. And Fields' extended juggling sequence is pretty much amazing for its creativity (remember, before becoming a movie comic he was a quite famous juggler). That all said, the film could have done with a more polished script that puts more emphasis on storytelling than on isolated gags (not a problem I generally have with W.C. Fields-movies) - but even as it is, the film is a wonderful hommage to the long-gone days of the vaudeville ...


By the way, the play-within-the-movie, The Drunkard by William H.Smith, was brought to the big screen quite a few times, most hilariously so with The Villain Still Pursued Her from 1940.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Tales to Chill
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directed by
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written by
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out now on DVD