Thursday, March 06, 2014

W.C. Fields and Me (1976)

Decided to give this a try tonight on Netflix. It's as bad as its reputation would suggest, an almost totally fictionalized account of Fields' relationship with Carlotta Monti (based on her memoir, which screenwriter Bob Merrill clearly ignored). Leave the re-writing of historical facts aside, this is just a mess, not helped any by the crude attempts at humor throughout, and the grating, unflattering portrayals of Fields and the other characters (many of them fictional, too). Steiger gives an oddly awkward performance, sometimes touching and reaching toward moments of inspiration, but too often devolving into caricature, like a bad impersonation. To be fair, it would be difficult for any actor to pull off, and the script is certainly partly to blame. Its flaws are especially frustrating given the potential of the subject, and the talent involved. Made at a time when Hollywood seemed to be going through a nostalgic phase about its own past (SILENT MOVIE and WON TON TON: THE DOG THAT SAVED HOLLYWOOD were released the same year), this one has all the worst characteristics of this particular subgenre. This is movie-of-the-week material at best. A near-total misfire. Skip it.

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