Tillie and Gus (1933)

“Instead of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we’ve found an ashcan.”

Tillie Gus Poster

Synopsis:
A con-artist (W.C. Fields) and his estranged wife (Alison Skipworth) help their niece (Julie Bishop) fight back against a corrupt lawyer (Clarence Wilson) who is trying to swindle them out of their house and possessions.

Genres:

Review:
This early W.C. Fields flick — just one of fifteen Fields titles listed and/or reviewed in Peary’s book — is ultimately not one of his best. Its premise of a naive young couple (Julie Bishop and Phillip Trent) being bilked out of their inheritance by a shyster lawyer (oily Clarence Wilson) is rather flimsy; and while Fields and co-star Alison Skipworth are clearly poised to “save the day” by fighting fire with fire against Wilson, they’re ultimately such unsavory characters themselves (they clearly state that they intend to convince their hapless niece and her husband to sell their ferryboat to Wilson for $500 so they can pocket the additional $500 he’s agreed to pay) that it’s hard to root for them. Like John Ford’s later Steamboat Round the Bend (1935), Tillie and Gus ends with a climactic steamboat race, which is not really all that exciting (despite tastelessly putting the life of Bishop’s baby at risk). Fortunately, the film is redeemed somewhat by a few humorous sequences — as when Fields feigns naivete during a poker game, or attempts to “mix paint” along with the directions of a radio show host. Diehard Fields fans won’t be disappointed, but the rest of us don’t need to bother with this one.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Several amusing sequences with Fields
    Tillie Gus Poker
    Tillie Gus Paint

Must See?
No, though fans of W.C. Fields will certainly be curious to check it out.

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