Now this should be some fun movie watching. Not only do I get to start the day with a W.C. Fields movie, but I also get Edgar and Charlie, one of the earliest ventriloquist acts that I know of. To be honest, this is going to be my first time watching a movie featuring Edgar and Charlie, as my only real exposure to them was an episode of The Muppet Show and their cameo in The Muppet Movie. I am hoping that there is a plethora of witty dialogue in this movie, as that is kind of the selling point of both Edgar and Charlie as well as Fields. So let’s see what we have in store with today’s movie, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man.
The plot: Victoria Whipsnade is at a party with her date, Roger Bel-Goodie and when Roger tries to ask her to marry him she stalls him by asking him to get her some punch. When he leaves, Victoria’s brother Phineas chastises her for constantly turning Roger down but she tells him that she doesn’t love him. When Phineas says that if she won’t do it for herself, do it for their father, she asks him what he means and Phineas tells her that their father is in dire straights as he spent all his money sending them to the posh college they are in, causing her to rethink things about Roger. The next day, their father, Larson E. Whipsnade, is racing for the state line with his circus, being pursued by the local sheriff and another man. They manage to cross the state line and the sheriff is forced to stop, as they are out of his jurisdiction but the other man vows to catch Larson if he has to chase him through every state. When they arrive at the next town, Larson and his circus set up and Larson begins selling tickets to the crowd, cheating some of them out of their money by giving them less change than they should receive. Meanwhile, The Great Edgar and his partner Charlie, his dummy, are discussing the fact that they haven’t been paid in a while and Charlie suggests robbing the box office when Larson goes for his daily shower. As the day goes on, Larson does go to take his shower and when he returns to his trailer, he finds the box office drawer open and the money missing, but he also sees the turban that Charlie wears for his act on the floor. Making his way to Edgar and Charlie’s tent, Larson hears Charlie counting out the money he grabbed and quickly reaches in and grabs him. Later, Edgar goes looking for Charlie and hears his voice coming from the animal enclosures. Thinking he might be in the lion cage, he asks the animal tamer for help and they find Charlie’s bow tie and think he is swallowed only to hear his voice coming from the alligator pen. They manage to get Charlie out of the alligator that swallowed him and as Edgar checks on him, Charlie says that Larson threw him in there but when pressured, he admits to taking money from the box office. Later, Larson is working the side show as the bearded woman Buffalo Bella but as he goes about his act, Charlie convinces a kid to sabotage it by shooting the targets with his slingshot before Larson can do it. As Larson leaves the tent, he is approached by the sheriff and his deputy who are looking for Larson but Larson acts like he hasn’t seen him and manages to evade them. Victoria shows up at the circus and as she wanders around, she catches Edgar and Charlie’s act and applauds them when they finish. She approaches them and asks about how long they have been in the circus and continues talking with Edgar, who becomes infatuated with her. As Edgar begins explaining how ventriloquism works, Larson, who is still trying to avoid the sheriff, enters the tent and Victoria rushes to meet her dad. As Victoria asks how things are going, Larson lies about being deeply in debt then heads off to handle some issues that come up. When Edgar says that he has the hiccups and can’t perform, Larson grabs a dummy and goes on in his place, and Edgar and Charlie quickly head off and meet up with Victoria in the hot air balloon. As they are talking, Charlie accidentally lets one of the ballast bags loose, which strikes Larson during his act and he catches them up there. Larson is not happy about Edgar being with Victoria and goes to threaten him but is forced to be nice when Charlie threatens to point him out to the sheriff. The sheriff eventually catches up to Larson and goes to serve him the papers on the circus being in default and Victoria asks how much the debt is. Victoria then calls Roger and tells him that he will marry her and Roger excitedly tells his mother the news, so she can prepare the ceremony and party. On the day of the wedding, Charlie and Edgar plan to meet with Victoria in the hot air balloon again but Larson cuts the rope and sets it adrift, as he doesn’t want them to interfere with Victoria’s wedding. He then tells Victoria that they stole the balloon and she is sad to hear that and heads back to the city but Edgar and Charlie use a parachute to jump out of the balloon and they end up landing in Victoria’s car. The parachute blocks Victoria’s vision and she ends up crashing into a police car, resulting in the three of them being thrown in jail. Meanwhile, Larson avoids the sheriff and heads to the Bel-Goodie’s home for Victoria’s wedding but Phineas tells him that she hasn’t shown up. As everyone waits for Victoria to show up, Larson ends up angering the Bel-Goodies with his antics and stories, which causes Mrs. Bel-Goodie to faint each time he mentions a snake, and they yell at him to leave. Victoria is finally released from jail and arrives at the house but when the Bel-Goodies all chastise her for her father’s actions and insult him, she and Phineas both stand up for their father. The sheriff and his deputy arrives and Larson mentions a snake, causing Mrs. Bel-Goodie to faint and the two officers are forced to catch her and help her upstairs. LArson uses the distraction to leave with his children and they ride off in Larson’s chariot while the police quickly drop Mrs. Bel-Goodie and chase after him. As they drive off, they pass by Edgar and Charlie, who were riding a bicycle to try and stop Victoria from marrying Roger, and Victoria, who admitted to Larson that she loved Edgar, yells out that she didn’t marry Roger and tells him to follow them. Up in the balloon, Mortimer, another of Edgar’s puppets who had stowed away in the balloon, watches the chase unfold and tells the audience that he is glad he is safe up there, just as the balloon starts to drop.
This was exactly the type of comedy that I was expecting to get. The acting was really good, with W.C. Fields putting in one of his usual brilliant performances while I also thought that Constance Moore did a good job as his daughter Victoria. I also really liked Edgar and Charlie (and Mortimer’s occasional appearance) and thought that Fields played off well against them. The story was pretty good, though it did get a little confusing at times as it felt like there were too many sub-plots going about in the movie. The comedy was great, with a lot of great timed lines mixed with a good dose of slap-stick humor, usually with Fields being the recipient of the slap-stick. A really funny movie that is good for some laughs .
Rating: 4 out of 5