I’m still going through online issues of Life magazine from the post-War era, the period into which we Baby Boomers were born.
W. C. Fields died almost 65 years ago, on Christmas Day, 1946. This movie, It’s A Gift, from 1934, is 77 years old, still very funny. Do kids today appreciate Fields’ humor? They should, but my impression is that kids today have a whole other sense of humor, one based on how outrageous and gross the comic can get.
The advantage of many old-time comedians like Fields is that before they went into movies they had years to perfect their timing, jokes and sketches in vaudeville. It shows in the precision of his comic delivery. The description in the article of the Fields’ crooked cue stick, and his story of the man with the glass eye, made me laugh just reading it. Fields was funny without dropping f-bombs into his act. It helps to make his humor timeless. I wonder how many of today’s comics that will be said of 77 years from now? I believe at that time people will still find W. C. Fields funny.
Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the movie. The whole sequence is timed perfectly, uses a blend of visual humor and sound effects, with funny dialogue. My favorite part is Fields’ scene with T. Roy Barnes, the exuberant annuity salesman with the “Carl La Fong” exchange.