W. C. Fields Collected Shorts: Fatal Glass of Beer, The Golf Specialist, The Dentist


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To look at W.C.Fields in the context of his contemporaries is to be amazed at the fame and popularity of a character that was really quite subversive: he smoked, drank, cursed, avoided hard work, lied, scammed, detested marriage and family life, abused underlings, and held every politically incorrect attitude imaginable. The Fields persona was irrascible, blustery, grandiose, and prone to wrong assumptions; all the while being harrassed by nagging wives, bratty children, an obnoxious public, disparaging neighbors, ungrateful employers, and a world of troublesome machinery. He found solace in alcohol, pretty assistants, and usually an adoring older daughter. And he was damn funny doing it.
At first glance, hard to imagine such a character being widely popular in America of the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s, but only if one falls into the periodic tendency of a large segment of American culture (perhaps all cultures!) to view the past through rose-colored glasses, finding a piety and propriety that never really existed. There has always been a anarchic and revolutionary spirit in American life that contradicts that propriety and more often than not found its best expression in humor. From the earliest pamphleteers, through newspaper columns and the comics page, on to Mark Twain, Will Rogers and the great pantheon of comics, commentators and comedians this lively antidote to stuffiness, self-importance and conventional wisdom has thrived.
In short, W.C. Fields while completely unique and unorthodox, was one of a company of Masters (that includes the Marx Brothers and Mae West at their best) adept at mocking the notions of propriety and what we would call “political correctness”.
Others have provided the outlines of these short films, and I agree that two or three are minor, but to my mind there are 3 classics here that shouldn’t be missed: The Fatal Glass of Beer, The Barber, and The Dentist.
What can you say about the completely nonsensical, nearly surreal first film? Well, as a verse from Fields dulcimer-accompanied song explains after his son takes the Fatal Glass:
“He met a Salvation Army girl, and wickedly he broke her tambourine,
All she said was ‘Heaven Loves You’ and placed a mark upon his brow,
With a kick she’d learned before she had been Saved!”
That and the curiously well aimed “Pop!” of snow in the face that accompanies the phrase “Tain’t a fit night out for man nor beast!”. You either find that funny or you don’t.
And so on for The Barber, with the most excruciating shave imaginable and the begging dog waiting for more “scraps”. And The Dentist with Fields daringly suggestive struggle to pull Elise Cavanna’s tooth, the blonde bitten by the Dachsund (“You’re lucky it wasn’t a Newfoundland dog!”) and the bearded gent with the elusive mouth (“And a very pretty thing too!”) and fleeing birds.
There are several golf routines, one naturally in the Golf Specialist (“Never mind where I told you to stand! You stand where I tell you!”) and in the Dentist, that are classic as well.
I have read the criticism of the DVD presentation, but even if extraneous music is present on The Dentist, these are the best transfers I’ve seen to date.
The great thing about humor is you can’t fake it. It’s either funny to you or it isn’t. That is what makes recommending comedy so futile. What slays me may leave you cold. I find Fields irresistible, and his wonderfully anti-social persona not only hilarious but timeless. For that, this collection is treasured.

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Weight 1 lbs