Three significant early Paramount comedies make an appearance in our Great Global Search, Horse Feathers and Monkey Business starring the Marx Brothers and It’s A Gift with W.C. Fields. Groucho and company are nothing less than essential but in the grand scheme of things, Fields’ dysfunctional family portrait stands apart from its contemporaries as one of the greatest comedies of all time.
The plot line is merely a thread; Harold Bissonette, an embattled New Jersey grocer makes plans to move his reluctant family to a recently purchased orange grove in California. The action is bare-bones as well, detailing the mundane daily regimen of poor Harold, at home, at work and even in bed; nearly fifteen minutes of the film’s 68 minute running time focuses on the persecuted shopkeeper simply trying to fall asleep.
Fields generally worked within one of two personas, the scheming, bellicose carnival barker or the put-upon Everyman under the thumb of Everywoman. In It’s A Gift he has never been more plainly our Everyman, saddled with a ungrateful, self-absorbed family while nursing his dream for a better life far from the Jersey shore (the film’s theme song is “California, Here I Come”).
The movie is directed by Norman McLeod (Horse Feathers, The Paleface) in poetically plain fashion, all the better for us to revel in Fields’ finely-tuned slapstick and commiserate with his underplayed pathos. In one of the most satisfying final scenes in movie history, our unhappy Everyman finally finds happiness. If the famously misanthropic Fields had a soft spot, It’s A Gift is where you’ll find it.
Eighty years later and the trailer for this wonderful movie remains missing. Anyone clueing us in to its whereabouts will receive the heartiest of handshakes. Head on over to our Great Global Trailer Search page and let us know!