W.C. Fields in Running Wild (1927)


(director/writer: Gregory La Cava; screenwriter: Roy Briant; cinematographer: Paul Vogel; editor: Ralph Black; cast: W.C. Fields (Elmer Finch), Mary Brian (Mary), Marie Shotwell (Mrs. Finch), Claude Buchanan (Dave Harvey), Frederick Burton (Mr. Harvey), Barnett Raskin (Junior), Frank Evans (Amos Barker), Edward Roseman (Arvo, the Hypnotist), J. Moy Bennett (Mr. Johnson); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gregory La Cava/Carl Laemmle Jr.; Paramount Home Video; 1927-silent)

“Silent domestic comedy that has a trim and mustached W.C. Fields.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gregory La Cava (“Stage Door”/”Saturday’s Children”/”My Man Godfrey”) directs with muscle this silent domestic comedy that has a trim and mustached W.C. Fields.

Fields plays the milquetoast Elmer Finch, stuck in a marriage from hell with his battle-axe second wife (Marie Shotwell) and his chubby, sneaky and obnoxious stepson Junior (Barnett Raskin). It’s only his young adult lovely daughter Mary (Mary Brian), going out with Dave Harvey (Claude Buchanan), the boss’s nice guy son, that the toy and novelties factory bill clerk for the last twenty years, without a pay raise, cares about. Elmer’s luck changes when he finds a horseshoe in the street and tosses it through a florist shop’s window, and while running from the proprietor darts into the theater where Arvo, the Hypnotist (Edward Roseman), is performing and is immediately put under which changes him from a pussycat to a lion. Elmer dons boxing gloves and after knocking out the hypnotist and running back out to the street, he collects an unpaid overdue bill from the skinflint bully toy supplier rival Amos Barker, gets his firm the coveted contract from millionaire businessman Mr. Johnson (which comes with a $15,000 bonus), buys his daughter the new dress she requests, and at home gets revenge at last on his intimidating wife and mamma’s boy stepson by making them cower before him as he asserts himself as the Man of the House by being physical with them and by taking down the portrait on the wall of his wife’s first husband and replacing it with his.

The boxing ring is plugged in as a metaphor for the aggressive family scene. It’s the kind of anarchistic comedy that Fields would better develop in his talkies and would rise to the top rung as a drunk, henpecked and misanthropic comic that wowed the public during his twenty year run in films.