Wednesday, March 26, 2014

“Never Knew Your Ma Had Feathers”

That’s from W. C. Fields in what many call his funniest film, “It’s a Gift”, showing at The Edge Center in Bigfork on April 10th. It will be the last of the Classic Movie Series this year. “It’s a Gift” was the 16th out of 28 sound films Fields made and by this time his movies had become showcases for his popular comedic skill.  Paramount Studios was happy to oblige the public’s need for his unique humor, and in “It’s a Gift”, W. C. Fields was at his best. This Classic Movie series presentation will be shown by Jack Nachbar on April 10th at The Edge Center in Bigfork.  Jack’s presentation will give you a better understanding of the film and the film industry at the time of the picture. Time 6:30PM. Free of charge.

Made in 1934, “It's a Gift” is touted as one of the greatest film comedies of all time.  It may not be as well-known as some of Fields’ other classics, but its effect will surely bring laughter to audiences! The character Harold Bissonette ("mysteriously pronounced biss-on-ay by Fields") lampoons all of the things in life he supposedly dislikes such as children, nagging wives, salesmen, neighbors and anything else he encounters. It is a collection of his gags and antics housed in the thin veil of a plot. Even though none of Fields’ movies were nominated for Academy Awards, the test of time has certainly put an exclamation mark on the quality of his work. “It’s a Gift” is in the 2000 American Film Institute’s 100 years of laughs (ranked #58), has a Rotten Tomato rating of 100%, and in 2010, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The other “star” in this movie is Baby Leroy. He was paired with Fields in three films: "Tillie and Gus" (1933), "The Old Fashioned Way" (1934) and "It's a Gift'" (1934).  From Wikipedia, “By the time of ‘It's a Gift’, Fields had wearied of the youngster, who was now getting second billing in the credits. ‘Fields had a phobia about the baby’, said director Norman McLeod. ‘He not only hated infants in general, but he believed that Baby LeRoy was stealing scenes from him…’". Whether that is true is certainly in question. Could it be studio hype and a necessary part of the public persona Fields needed to be so successful? Read more at:

W.C. Fields

Born William Claude Dukenfield (January 29, 1880[1] – December 25, 1946), he will forever be known to his audiences as W. C. Fields.  He was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer.  To the public, his comic persona overcame any “real” character traits he possessed. This stage personality of a hard-drinking, self-involved character who hated everything from women, to children to people, and society in general did not stop audiences from loving him because it was all within his humor and expected of him. In reality, he was married, then separated, then reconciled, all the while financially taking care of his family and his beloved grand children. He did have a drinking issue that developed after his juggling days (that would be dangerous) reportedly due to the hard life of being on the road so much. Of course the “on-stage” Fields was more interesting to the public and the studios (Paramount and Universal) encouraged the on-stage side of his reputation.

Baby Leroy

Baby LeRoy, born Ronald Le Roy Overacker (12 May 1932 – 28 July 2001), was a child actor who appeared in films in the 1930s. His film claim to fame was being the youngest film actor to receive star status with second billing in this movie.  At sixteen months old, he was the youngest person to ever be put under contract by a major studio. He is best known for the three films he made with W.C. Fields but his film career ended in a rather strange way.

At eight years old he landed a lead role in Paramount’s “The Biscuit Eater”, filmed in Georgia.  This was to be his “comeback” movie. In the opening scene, Baby LeRoy was to swing on a rope over a lake but he lost his grip and fell twice, eventually catching a cold and losing his voice. Paramount sent him back to Hollywood promising another film. It never came and he retired at age four.  Overacker became a merchant seaman and in 1957, and as an adult, appeared as a guest challenger on the TV panel show “To Tell The Truth”.

Come and see the trials and tribulations of a grocery store owner as he battles a shrewish wife, an incompetent assistant, and assorted annoying children, customers, and salesmen. Showing at The Edge Center in Bigfork, presented by Jack and Lynn Nachbar on Thursday April 10th. Time 6:30PM. Learn and laugh—all in one place!    You also get to see the cartoon from the same period and enjoy snacks.  All this is free of charge.

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