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Sunday Funnies: Laurel & Hardy and W.C. Fields

Sunday, July 5, 2015
4:30 p.m. It’s a Gift
Norman Z. McLeod (US, 1934)

Harold Bissonette is trying to shave, performing a complicated and dangerous dance around his obliviously preening daughter in front of the bathroom mirror. "You want me to cut my throat?" he mutters. Family life could drive him to it. This New Jersey shopkeeper is the quintessential Fieldsian paterfamilias, on the razor's edge between meek compliance and antisocial behavior. Persecuted by a harridan wife, irascible and incompetent customers, and the ever-terrifying Baby LeRoy, all Mr. Bissonette can do is dream of packing up the flivver and making for California—a dream that eventually comes true, but not exactly as expected, and not before our unfortunate hero has been made to run a gauntlet of hilarious set pieces. Though Fields's famous misanthropy is less vehement here than in some of his other films, his view of human society is reflected in Mr. Bissonette's version of bliss: a tall glass of gin, a little orange, and sweet solitude.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Jack Cunningham, based on a story by J. P. McEvoy, Charles Bogle (W. C. Fields). Photographed by Henry Sharp. With W. C. Fields, Baby LeRoy, Kathleen Howard, Jean Rouverol. (73 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Universal)

Preceded by
The Dentist (Leslie Pearce, US, 1932) Leaving bent clubs and shattered teeth in his wake, Fields rages against the forces of convention. (20 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Cohen Media)

Total running time: 93 mins