Snowy Fields, and Sennett Adrift
The Fatal Glass Of Beer (1933) Leaves Showmen Cold
The most oft-repeated pan of this W.C. Fields short came from a
|Bill Presents Old Boss Sennett With a Special Academy Award|
Variety gave Fatal Glass the frost, but Film Daily understood: "Clever process work and many amusing gags are part of the riot of laughter," said the trade's 6/3/33 review. Did it need sophistication and years' exposure to 10-20-30 stagecraft to "get" Bill's humor here? Clearly yes, but even Fields had to admit, to himself if not others, that comedy aimed for a mass public must be more accessible. He'd not go so far out again till 40's haywiring of Never Give A Sucker An Even Break. Modern viewers are of course even less familiar with conventions Fields was spoofing, so The Fatal Glass Of Beer still has its hill to climb. I can but imagine how the thing played to college crowds during Fields-maniacal days of the 60/70's, where it had much circulation thanks to prints easily rented (generally at $10 per day) or bought (Blackhawk sold Beer at relative bargains in 8 or 16mm). I admit to liking The Fatal Glass Of Beer more with each visit. It is Fields walking the wire and maybe falling, but for some of his admirers, this is right up there with his most accomplished work.
Greenbriar highly recommends The Mack Sennett Collection from Flicker Alley, a Blu-Ray set of fifty comedies which includes The Fatal Glass Of Beer. Most all of comic luminaries from the silent and early sound era are here. It's just about the best assemblage of clowning so-far offered to home viewing, truly a one-stop for slapstick.