The Old-Fashioned Way (William Beaudine, 1934, USA)

The Old Fashioned Way is a 1934 comedy starring W.C. Fields and made for Paramount. The film was directed by William Beaudine, an incredibly prolific Hollywood who churned out tons of films over multiple decades. In this film, Fields plays a traveling showman by the name of the "Great McGonigle". He is leading a troop of actors around the country who are constantly being hounded by local authorities and creditors. The sentimental part of the drama involves McGonigle's daughter, Betty (Judith Allen). She wants to run off with a suitor named Wally Livingston (Joe Morrison). Wally joins one of the troupe's productions, wherein he sings a song. This impresses his father. Meanwhile, Betty is trying to get Wally to return to college.

W.C. Fields is essentially playing himself here - boisterous and self-serving. The cast features a lot of his regular performers. The musical numbers are OK but nothing exceptional. However, one part of the film that stands out is Fields' juggling act near the end of the film. Fields of course got his start in the vaudeville theater, but by the time this film came out, he was in his 50s. Still, he demonstrates remarkable talent with his juggling. 

The play being performed throughout much of the film is a temperance play called The Drunkard; or The Fallen Saved. It was written in 1844, and at one point it was one of the most performed plays in the United States. P.T. Barnum was known at the time for promoting it, and the play is now credited with the emergence of the temperance movement's success. Of course, there is a great deal of humor in Fields acting in this play, as his character onscreen was known to be quite the drinker. Overall, The Old-Fashioned Way is a minor entry in the Fields canon, but worthwhile.



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