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Never Give a Sucker an Even Break You Can't Cheat an Honest Man

By Charles W. Bailey

They say there are people who don't think W.C. Fields is the funniest man in the world. Such individuals probably put mayonaise in their caviar and drink rare old brandy at a single gulp, and they should be eliminated from society. There is no one like Fields: eating an ice cream soda ("This scene was supposed to be in a bar"), cheating small children, causing old women to faint and then accusing them of drunkenness, short-changing rubes--he is as ever in this latest pair of revivals.

The harassed producers of these movies have managed to dilute the pure essence somewhat by inserting Edgar Bergen and his pair of painful mannequins in "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man." They even gave Charley McCarthy, who is rivalled as the screen's biggest pain only by Margaret O'Brien, equal billing and yards of film. But all this merely sharpens the edge of the master's humor. Surrounded by his perennial stooges, Fields shuffles and mumbles in the role of Larsen E. Whipsnade, bankrupt circus owner, following the fast buck and followed by the sheriff.

"Never Give a Sucker an Even Break" is not so marred by interlopers. There are a few child stars involved, but they get the worst of it: faced with the necessity of allowing a small girl to sing. Fields surrounds her with stagehands and a director with a whistle, and sends a pair of actors in German uniforms goose-stepping back and forth in front of her. Even her highest notes are lost in the resulting chaos.

There is also a chase at the end of the movie. It involves two motorcycle cops, a handful of pedestrians, numerous cars, a fire engine, and Fields well-known failing for wrecks. To hit the schedule right, see this sequence first, then "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man," then "Never Give A Sucker an Even Break" in its entirety.

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