Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Bank Dick

One of everyone's favorite W. C. Fields movies is The Bank Dick from 1940.  This was the second to last Fields movie and by this time his popularity allowed him do whatever he wanted.  The story seems a little disjointed by today's standards, but each part is so much fun that it doesn't matter.  Don't be a moon-calf, don't be a jabbernow, you just have to enjoy it as it unfolds.

Fields came from vaudeville, so he could put on an act all alone on stage.  In his movies he surrounded himself with character actors like Grady Sutton, (Og Oggilby) Una Merkel (Myrtle Souse), Shemp Howard (the bartender, Joe Guelpe) and Franklin Pangborn (J. Pinkerton Snoopington, bank examiner).  These people have wonderful comedic timing, and Fields used them to great effect.

Russell Hicks played J. Frothingham Waterbury.  Hicks started his film career in the silent classic The Birth of a Nation in 1915.  He had 316 roles in movies and TV over 42 years.  His deep voice and ability to project it, and his perfect diction was great in the talkies.  Look for him in You Can't Take it with You (Directed by Frank Capra), Buck Privates Come Home (Abbott and Costello), The Big Store (Marx Brothers), Great Guns (among other films with Laurel and Hardy), Dark Alibi (A Sidney Toler - Charlie Chan film)...it's another endless list by a great bit actor!  For most of his career on the screen he averaged 13 films a year.

One of my favorites in this film had a small part.  David Oliver was the bank teller with the straw hat.  Billy Mitchell comes in and wants to withdraw his money because the teller with the hat makes him nervous.  He made ME nervous with his nervous little voice and that sneeze!  Billy Mitchell was a tenor sax player with Dizzie Gillespie and Count Basie.  David Oliver also appeared in Fields' You Can't Cheat an Honest Man a year earlier, and I also noticed him in Pot O' Gold (1941) with Jimmy Stewart and Paulette Goddard.

I guess its time to watch some more W. C. Fields movies.  I had the pleasure of meeting his grandson, Bill Fields, at one of our Sons of the Desert meetings quite a few years ago.  I believe he still lives in the Philadelphia area.

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