Going to Sleep During the W.C. Fields Film Festival

Checking in from the sofa with an update on my own private W.C. Fields retrospective. I'm mirroring the series currently underway in New York City at the Film Forum.

W.C. Fields Comedy Collection (The Bank Dick / My Little Chickadee / You Can't Cheat an Honest Man / It's a Gift / International House)W.C. Fields Comedy Collection, Vol. 2 (The Man on the Flying Trapeze / Never Give A Sucker An Even Break / You're Telling Me! / The Old Fashioned Way / Poppy)Alice in WonderlandDavid Copperfield (1935)

The weekend was solid, featuring three of my favorite Fields-created projects, "The Dentist" (1932), "It's a Gift" (1934), and "Man on the Flying Trapeze" (1935), all on one program and funnier than ever. His largely dramatic guest-star-for-hire gigs comprised another line-up with "David Copperfield" (1935) and "Alice in Wonderland" (1933). Fields surfaces in the classic literature roles of Micawber and Humpty-Dumpty.

He was a fine, nuanced character actor, and watching these movies again made me shake my head again, recalling a big cinematic loss. W.C. turned down the offered, eccentric part of The Great and Powerful Oz in MGM's 1939 "The Wizard of Oz." Frank Morgan is terrific, no argument, but Fields was born to play in the Emerald City.

The fest highlight for me so far?

I got to see what I call "The Insomnia Scene" from "It's a Gift" (video below). (Coincidentally, "Man on the Flying Trapeze" opens with somewhat of a continuation.) I hate to spoil the comedy, so I'll say only that our man in pajamas portrays Harold Bissonette in sleepy pursuit of some early morning shut-eye.

While the footage is priceless, I also love that the so-called plot of the farce stops to include this detour, encompassing 15% of the entire running time of the film!

W.C. Fields: "It's a Gift": Porch Sequence (1934) via YouTube
Also appearing: Baby LeRoy
Not appearing: Carl LaFong

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