Friday, September 4, 2015

The Bank Dick

TCM isn't running a Friday Night Spotlight this month, since the Five Came Back spotlight is substituting for it on Tuesday nights. So on this first Friday in September, TCM is looking at the 100th anniversary of the film career of William Claude Dukenfield, better known to moviegoers as W.C. Fields. The 100 year anniversary is for the release of Pool Sharks, which hit US screens in September 1915. I was going to embed that today, but I see I already did that four months ago. So instead I'll mention the first of tonight's W.C. Fields features, The Bank Dick, coming on at 8:00 PM.

Fields plays Egbert Sousé. Notice the accent on Sousé; it's the subject of the very first movie when somebody passing his house refers to him as "Egbert Souse", rhyming with "mouse". It would be an appropriate name for a Fields character, so obviously he's riffing on that. Sousé is a husband in a family that's giving him no peace. Wife Agatha (Cora Witherspoon) and her mother Hermisilio (Jessie Ralph) nag him, and his young daughter Elise (Evelyn Del Rio) is your typical kid. As for the other daughter, Myrtle (Una Merkel), she's in love with bank teller Og Oggilby (Grady Sutton). It's all enough to drive a man to drink, which Egbert likes to do at the local bar.

One day, however, bank robbers come to the bank where Og is a teller, go up to his window, and rob the place! One of the robbers is able to get away, but Egbert "captures" the other through what is really just a comedy of errors and dumb luck. But because of that, he becomes a local celebrity, to the point that the bank president is willing to give him a job at the bank. Of course, having Egbert at the bank is going to turn the bank upside down, which quickly happens when Egbert gets Og to embezzle some of the money on an investment so that Og can raise enough money to marry Myrtle. Egbert has to prevent the bank examiner (Franklin Pangborn) from examining the books.

Eventually, robbers come and rob the bank again. This time, Egbert takes off after them in what is a well-remembered car chase, one that's rather more light-hearted than the chase in Bullitt In between all this, there's also a sequence in which Egbert winds up directing a scene from a movie.

All in all, The Bank Dick serves as another vehicle for the comic talents of W.C. Fields. If you like his comedy, you'll love the movie, and you'll probably already have seen it. If you don't care too much for it or if you've never seen any of his movies, you may find that it's a bit disjointed, like a bunch of sequences that don't fit together as well as in other comedies. Fields isn't as egregious as the Marx Brothers in that regard, but the movie is clearly all about him. Then again, he wrote the film under a ridiculous alias, Mahatma Kane Jeeves.

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