Cast & Crew
W. C. Fields
Butch And Buddy
At Esoteric Picture's West Coast studio, aspiring actress Gloria Jean tells her mother that she is more worried about her uncle than her first rehearsal, because she knows that if he sells his script, he will be able to support the whole family. Meanwhile, on his way to a script conference, W. C. "Uncle Bill" Fields stops at a café for breakfast and ends up spending the morning trading wisecracks with the overweight waitress. In a rehearsal hall, Gloria, meanwhile, practices her song under the personal supervision of producer Franklin Pangborn, who spends more time arguing with the crew than rehearsing Gloria. Outside the studio, W. C. runs into his niece, who offers him words of encouragement while two young boys, Butch and Buddy, torment him. While meeting with Pangborn, W. C. tries read his new script aloud, but is constantly interrupted by a cleaning woman. When the producer's wife hears how W. C. has written her part, she leaves in a huff. Pangborn then takes the script and begins to read it aloud himself. In the script, W. C. and Gloria are on a plane trip when W. C., after numerous misadventures with his fellow passengers, falls out of the plane's observation deck and lands on a bed in the courtyard of a mountain-top mansion. There, he meets the beautiful Ouilotta Hemogloben, who has never seen a man before. W. C. introduces her to "squidgilum," a kissing game, but when her mother, the matronly Mrs. Hemogloben, appears and wants to play as well, W. C. jumps into a basket and careens down the mountain. Pangborn, upset at the script's implausibility, stops reading, but W. C. convinces him to continue. Now in a gypsy village near the mountain, W. C. learns that Hemogloben is worth millions. As he prepares to court his future wife, Leon Errol, W. C.'s rival, climbs the mountain, only to be met near the top by a love-sick gorilla. Beating Leon to the top, W. C. and company prepare his wedding to Mrs. Hemogloben. When Leon finally does arrive, W. C. discreetly pushes him off the mountain. As the ceremony is about to begin, Gloria convinces her uncle not to marry Mrs. Hemogloben for her money, and the two make a hasty retreat to the basket and down the mountain. With that, Pangborn has had enough and fires W. C., ordering him to never step foot on the studio again. Later, while shopping with Gloria, W. C. irritates some policemen investigating a bank robbery, then mistakes another matronly woman for a pregnant one, taking her on a mad automobile ride to the maternity hospital and crashing his car just outside its entrance. As Gloria arrives by taxi and sees what her uncle has done, she looks into the camera and states, "That's my Uncle Bill...but I still love him."
W. C. Fields
Butch And Buddy
Emil Van Horn
Armand "curley" Wright
James "brick" Sullivan
Bernard B. Brown
R. A. Gausman
John T. Neville
M. M. Ponce
Richard H. Riedel
Charles Van Enger
Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
When Fields first delivered the script for Never Give a Sucker an Even Break to Universal under his pseudonym Otis Criblecoblis, it was 12 pages and entitled The Great Man, his original title for The Bank Dick. The script was rejected as too short so he expanded it to 96 pages. The studio still demanded a longer screenplay so Fields hired two writers, John T. Neville and Prescott Chaplin, to pad the script to 156 pages with descriptive material like "Beautiful girl adorned in blue fox and in a gown styled by the Rye de la Paix." When this version was submitted to Joseph Breen, the head of the MPPDA censor board, he exploded with a torrent of outrage and demanded changes. Breen took particular offense to the "vulgar and suggestive scenes and dialogue" and "jocular references to drinking and liquor." His six-page memo, which crosses over into Theatre of the Absurd territory, noted sixty scenes set in a cocktail lounge as well as countless sexual innuendos: "Fields is shown looking at girls' legs or breasts and reacting thereto." He even saw lewd intentions in the most nonsensical details: "The name 'Fuchschwantz,' because of its sound....should be deleted or changed. The line 'tighter than Dick's hat band' is questionable...any and all dialogue and showing of bananas and pineapples is unacceptable, by reason of the fact that all this business in the dialogue is a play upon an obscene story."
At this point, Universal commandeered the screenplay and hired numerous writers to rework it. Fields later commented, "They produced the worst script I ever read. I was going to throw it in their faces when the director (Eddie Cline) told me not to. He said, 'We'll shoot your own script. They won't know the difference.' We did - and they didn't." However, the original title, The Great Man was replaced with Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, leaving Fields to remark, "They can't get that on a marquee. It will probably boil down to W.C. Fields - Sucker."
Although Fields' contract was not renewed with Universal after Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, he had the last laugh. The film is brimming over with his trademark humor, particularly in regards to the bottle, and in one scene, he directly addresses his nemesis. Walking into an ice cream parlour, he tells the soda jerk, "Give me a drink, I'm dying."
Soda jerk: "What'll it be?
Fields: "Jumbo ice cream soda."
Soda jerk: "What flavor?"
Fields: "Oh, I don't care, spinach, horseradish.....anything you've got there."
At which point, Fields turns to the camera and says, "This scene was supposed to be in a saloon, but the censor cut it out. It'll play just as well."
Director: Edward F. Cline
Screenplay: Prescott Chaplin, John T. Neville
Cinematography: Charles Van Enger
Editor: Arthur Hilton
Music: Frank Skinner
Cast: W.C. Fields (The Great Man), Gloria Jean (His Niece), Leon Errol (His Rival), Billy Lenhart (Heckler), Kenneth Brown (Heckler), Margaret Dumont (Mrs. Hemogloben).
by Jeff Stafford
Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
I didn't squawk about the steak, dear. I merely said I didn't see the horse that used to be tethered outside here.- The Great Man
We're dropping 2,000 feet!- His Niece
It's all right, dear. Don't start worrying 'til we get down 1,999. The last foot is dangerous.- The Great Man
You're about to fall heir to a kitten's stocking.- The Great Man
What's a kitten's stocking?- Heckler
A sock on the puss.- The Great Man
How'd you like to hide the egg and gurgitate a few saucers of mocha java?- The Great Man
And another thing. Don't be so free with your hands.- Waitress
Listen, honey. I was only trying to guess your weight. You take things too seriously.- The Great Man
The title came from dialog in the final scene of W.C. Fields' big stage hit (and later film) "Poppy".
According to Fields' 2003 biography, the vehicle crashing into the drugstore was a real accident that occurred during filming. The director decided to leave it in to give the film the appearance of having a bigger budget.
The working title of this film was The Great Man. The name of the writer credited with the film's original story, "Otis Criblecoblis," was a pseudonym for the film's star, W. C. Fields. According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Fields's original script for the film, dated April 15, 1941, was rejected by the PCA as being "filled with vulgar and suggestive scenes and dialogue" as well as containing "innumerable jocular references to drinking and liquor." The Hays office also objected to references to the producer's character, played in the film by actor Franklin Pangborn, as a "pansy," and scenes in which the stage directions had Fields' character leering at women's legs and breasts. A revised script, dated June 5, 1941, was later approved by the PCA.
This was the final film to feature W. C. Fields in a starring role. According to modern sources, it was the last picture in a four-film contract between Fields and Universal, which paid him $25,000 for the story idea and another $125,000 for his performance. Modern sources also claim that the character of "Madame Gorgeous," Gloria Jean's mother in the film, was to have died in the film-within-a-film sequence, with Fields taking over as the young girl's guardian; in the released film, however, "Madame Gorgeous" simply disappears without explanation.
While Hollywood Reporter production charts include Baby Sandy in the cast, the child did not appear in the released film. Hollywood Reporter production charts also include Beatrice Roberts in the cast, but her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Harriette Haddon (Redhead), Marcia Ralston (Stewardess), Jean Porter (Passerby) and Prince (Himself, a Great Dane) to the cast and credit Jack Gross as line producer and Dave Sharpe with stunts. Actress Carlotta Monti, who played a small role in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, later wrote an autobiography in which she identified herself as the mistress of the noted comedian. Entitled W. C. Fields and Me, the book was made into a motion picture in 1976, starring Rod Steiger and Valerie Perrine and directed by Arthur Hiller.