W.C. Fields in You're Telling Me (1934)

If the Katharine Hepburn film Alice Adams were seen from the father's perspective, the film might be this one -You're Telling Me (1934).

Films like this (about a poor young lady who dates a wealthy man) showcase the ingenue and the male juvenile as star-crossed mates. The young man usually has stuffy, intolerant, wealthy parents. The young lady often has a pragmatic mother and an eccentric father who invents quirky things. You'll see this kind of story in Alice Adams, Hot Saturday and You Can't Take It With You (except in the latter, the young lady's mother is just as loopy as the dad).

The story usually centers around the young people, but this time, with W. C. Fields in the lead, the story is all about dad.You're Telling Me is a remake of a W.C. Fields silent film from 1926 called So's Your Old Man. He wants to sell an invention to make more money so that his daughter will be acceptable to her prospective mother-in-law. He fails. Distraught, on the train home he meets a woman (Adrienne Ames) who cheers him. The lady happens to be a princess, but Fields doesn't know it.

Conveniently, the town gossips are also on the train and spread salacious rumors about the man, further ruining his daughter's chances. When the princess visits the man's family, she elevates their social status immediately. Will the family finally have everything they want?

Joan Marsh as the daughter presents a surprisingly upbeat and refreshingly confident character. Usually the daughter in this kind of tale is maudlin and full of self-pity about not fitting in with her perspective in-laws. You get the feeling she would enjoy eloping.

The critics praised the film, particularly Fields. Literary Digest critic says , "The new picture [You're Telling Me] offers a full-length portrait of [W.C.Fields'] talents and, on that score alone, it would be worth attention."

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (October 6, 1934) critic says,
"There is a growing suspicion that the loitering Mr. Chaplin will have a quite a time of it winning back the title of cinema's No. 1 funny man.The title, you know, has long since passed to the bulbous-nosed W.C. Fields, and if there has been any doubt about his claim to that distinction, You're Telling Me once and for all removes that doubt.
"It is this magic touch, this ability to merge a suggestion of pathos with his brilliant humor, that leads to the conclusion that Mr. Fields is not only an inspired comedian but also a fine actor....If you don't like  You're Telling Me, then there's absolutely no hope for you."
Fields triumphs here and is charming. You're Telling Me is a recommended film for those who enjoy one-liners, star-crossed lovers, and silent film-style physical comedy.


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