20/03/2010

The Fatal Glass Of Beer (1933)

Here's Bill Fields again as Mr Snavely in a Mack Sennett-produced comedy short for Paramount - one of four excellent quickes they made together, the others being the rather naughty The Dentist (1932) plus The Pharmacist (1933) and The Barber Shop (1933). The stagy delivery and crappy props here are deliberate as the film is intended to be a spoof of the "Yukon melodrama", apparently then popular with vaudeville audiences. Who even knew such a genre existed, let alone that it was well enough known for Fields to bother sending up? The Fatal Glass Of Beer is essentially a damn silly riff on the parable of the Prodigal Son and Fields' recurring line, "And it ain't a fit night out for man or beast!" seems to have passed into the language. Fields himself certainly gave it another airing in the ludicrous stage play his travelling repertory company puts on in The Old Fashioned Way (1934). Songwriters Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin also lifted it for the title of a 1936 piece recorded by Sidney Bechet. Sadly, the equally funny, "I think I'll go out and milk the elk", never inspired a hit record. The joke about using a small dachshund as part of dog sled team, its little legs too short to reach the ground, may have been borrowed from Buster Keaton's 1922 short The Frozen North, directed by Fields cohort Eddie Cline, but who's counting?


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