It’s a Gift (1934)

“Do you know a man by the name of LaFong? Carl LaFong? Capital L …” Basically a series of hilarious comic vignettes strung together, It’s a Gift features W. C. Fields at his absolute best. Most of the classic comedy routines had been refined over the years by Fields from his early vaudeville days. Fields portrays bumbling New Jersey grocer “Harold Bissonette,” who struggles against his domineering wife “Amelia” (Kathleen Howard), obnoxious kids “Mildred” (Jean Rouverol) and “Norman” (Tom Bupp), idiotic customers and, of course, the ubiquitous Baby LeRoy. After he inherits some money from his “Uncle Bean,” Bissonette decides to pursue one of his dreams by moving his resistant family to Southern California to operate a dilapidated orange grove. Some of the classic routines include irate customer “Jasper Fitchmueller” (Morgan Wallace) demanding “kumquats,” Bissonette’s grocery store getting trashed by “Baby Dunk” (Baby LeRoy) and blind customer “Mr. Muckle” (Charles Sellon), Bissonette’s futile attempt to sleep on the back porch (the movie’s working title was Back Porch) and the impromptu “picnic” on the private estate grounds. It’s a Gift was directed by Norman Z. McLeod (Horse Feathers). The tagline for It’s a Gift screamed, “California or Bust! And what they don’t burn, they practically wreck … just as they will wreck you with laughter in this coast-to-coast joy-ride!”

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