I honestly don’t want to go to work today. Part of it is I am getting excited for Dragoncon over the next few days, and part of it is that I honestly didn’t get a good night’s sleep last night. Either way, the last thing I want to deal with today is the hassle of work and yet, I will still be going because the only thing worse than going to work when you don’t want to is not having a job to go to. So to ease my heart and help put me in a better mood, I will indulge myself in some laughter with today’s movie, The Old Fashioned Way.
The plot: As a train is preparing to depart, the local sheriff boards the train looking for The Great McGonigle, the leader of a vaudeville troupe, to give him a bill that he owes. When McGonigle’s daughter, Betty, says he isn’t there, the sheriff waits outside for him but Jenny manages to warn McGonigle as he approaches the train and McGonigle sets fire to the bill while the sheriff’s back is turned, then uses it to light his cigar when the sheriff tries to hand it to him. On board the train, McGonigle’s assistant Marmaduke shows the conductor the troupe’s tickets and as he does this, McGonigle manages to hide a ticket for the sleeping car that another passenger dropped. Betty saw this and tells her father to return the ticket but McGonigle uses it anyways. Meanwhile, Betty runs into Wally Livingston, a young man that has been following them from town to town, and Betty tries to discourage him from going into theater and says he should return to college but Wally refuses as he loves both the theater and Betty. When they reach the next town, McGonigle tries to lift the spirits of his troupe, who is getting tired of being underpaid and sneaking out of town ahead of the law, and reads a fake telegraph saying that their show is sold out. When they get to town, he is surprised to find a marching band performing at the station and mistakenly believes it is for them but it is really for another passenger on the train. The troupe heads towards the boarding house and the owner, Mrs. Wendleschaffer, tells McGonigle that she will not let them leave until they pay their bills this time. As they are eating lunch, they are joined by Cleopatra Pepperday and her son Albert and while Cleopatra tries to convince McGonigle to let her sing for him, Albert spends the time throwing things into McGonigle’s food or throwing food at McGonigle. When everyone gets distracted by the “new horseless carriage”, McGonigle tries to sneak out but Cleopatra catches him and leads him into the sitting room so she can sing for him. After she sings, McGonigle flatters her and says that she can join his theater troupe but Mrs. Wendleschaffer believes he is merely leading her on. Meanwhile, Wally’s father arrives in town and is talking with the local sheriff, who is engaged to Cleopatra, when they spot McGonigle and Cleopatra heading to the theater and decide to follow them. At the theater, Betty tells her father that one of the actors quit so Wally decides to audition for the part. As he is singing, Mr Livingston and the sheriff enter the theater and Mcgonigle tells them to be quiet. When Wally finishes, McGonigle tells him he has the part but McGonigle is then pulled aside from the sheriff, who has a telegraph from the sheriff in Cucamonga but Cleopatra threatens to end their engagement unless he rips it up. Meanwhile, Wally tries to introduce his father to Betty but Mr. Livingston is rude to her so she leaves. Wally tries to get his father to apologize but his father refuses and tells Wally he needs to go back to college but Wally says he can’t as he is performing that night. That night, everyone in town has come to see Cleopatra in the play. Backstage everyone is getting ready when the sheriff arrives with a sheriff from another town, who is there to collect the money from when McGonigle’s troupe was in his town. Despite the sheriff’s warnings, Cleopatra agrees to pay off the debt. The show goes on and Betty ends up falling for Wally as he performs while Cleopatra constantly practices her line but is never called to come on stage and she ends up leaving heartbroken with the sheriff. Mr. Livingston goes to see Betty during an intermission and says that the theater life is no place for Wally and she agrees with him and tells him that she has been trying to get him to go back to college, causing Mr. Livingston to change his opinion of her and he apologizes. After the show, McGonigle entertains the crowd with his juggling act but he later receives a telegram that his tour has been cancelled. As he decides how to break the news to everyone, he overhears Wally and his father talking about Wally wanting to marry Betty. McGonigle then tells Betty that he has been called to New York for a solo gig and is closing the show as a result, allowing Wally to marry Betty while McGonigle and Marmaduke sneak out of town. Later, as Betty, Wally, and his father board the train to leave, they receive a telegram from McGonigle saying that things are going great in New York while in reality, McGonigle has actually become a snake oil salesman.
Not my favorite W.C. Fields movie but this is a pretty funny movie. The acting was pretty good, with Fields doing a good job with his quick wit and his interaction with Baby LeRoy (Albert) was incredibly funny. The story was ok but honestly didn’t seem as entertaining as some of his other movies. I did like that Fields was able to showcase his juggling abilities in this movie. There wasn’t as much slapstick comedy as I was expecting, which was a little disappointing, but there was plenty of Fields’ sharp wit to bring along plenty of laughs. Depending on your personal views, you may or may not like this movie but for me, it was a much needed bit of laughs to start the day.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5