SIX OF A KIND (director: Leo McCarey; screenwriters: Walter DeLeon/Harry Ruskin/story by Douglas MacLean & Keene Thompson; cinematographer: Henry Sharp; editor: LeRoy Stone; music: Ralph Rainger; cast: Charles Ruggles (J. Pinkham ‘Pinky’ Whinney), Mary Boland (Flora Whinney), W.C. Fields (Nuggetville Sheriff ‘Honest John’ Hoxley), George Burns (George Edwards), Gracie Allen (Gracie De Vore), Alison Skipworth (Mrs. “Duchess” K. Rumford), Bradley Page (Ferguson), Grace Bradley (Goldie), William J. Kelly (A.B. Gillette); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; Paramount; 1934)
“Though only in a cameo, Fields steals the pic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An adequate but nevertheless disappointing farce considering the excellent premise and the talent involved in making this film, including director Leo McCarey (“Duck Soup”/”The Awful Truth”) and the six of kind actors Charles Ruggles, Mary Boland, Alison Skipworth, W.C. Fields, George Burns and Gracie Allen. It’s based on a story by Douglas MacLean & Keene Thompson; it’s scripted by Walter DeLeon and Harry Ruskin.
Planning a cross-country motor vacation to Hollywood as a second honeymoon to celebrate twenty years of marriage, straightlaced and mild-mannered bank teller Pinky Whinney (Ruggles) and his nagging wife Flora Whinney (Boland) run into big problems when George Edwards (Burns) and Gracie De Vore (Allen) answer the newspaper ad Flora ran without hubby’s knowledge for a couple to help share expenses. The couple are obnoxious, overbearing, too talkative, without shame in their demands and are also not married which results in the women and men sharing hotel rooms along the way. They are also accompanied by Gracie’s slobbering Great Dane who will only sit in the front forcing Flora to sit in the back of the car with their unwelcome guests. Added to the nightmare two-week vacation is that fellow bank teller Ferguson (Bradley Page) steals $50,000 from the bank and sneaks it out by switching luggage with Pinky. Ferguson’s plan is to retrieve the stolen loot by switching luggage again at the first place the vacationers plan to stop and then leaving his wife to live it up with good-time gal Goldie (Grace Bradley). But the bossy couple force the Whinneys to go to a different town, and that leaves the bank embezzler high and dry. Meanwhile the bank believes that Whinney embezzled the money and has federal agents tracking them. In Nevada, Gracie says she doesn’t believe in signs and wakes up two bums sleeping by the side of the road to ask them the way to Nuggetville. They rob the two couples of their money and personal possessions but don’t touch the luggage. Finally arriving at the small Nevada town to sleep overnight, the hotel owner known as the Duchess (Alison Skipworth) is suspicious that Pinky has to wire for money from the bank. Their phone call gives the bank their address and they call the sheriff, Honest John (W.C. Fields), to hold the couple until they arrive. Unfortunately Ferguson overheard their address and arrives first. It will then be up to the sheriff and hotel owner to figure things out and make sure the real crook is caught.
The film’s classical comedy moment is the W.C. Fields billiard routine, something he was doing since 1905 but never the whole act before on film. While that’s going on Fields tells with impeccable comic timing how he got his name of “Honest John” after finding a man’s glass eye. Fields also has the film’s best one-liner. When Alison asks “Why should a man carry $50,000 in a suitcase?” Fields responds “Just to tempt honest people.” Though only in a cameo, Fields steals the pic. The Gracie Allen dumb chatterbox routine was never funny and became tiresome as that routine was played throughout. The pushy Burns are portrayed more as tormentors than funny and almost ruin the pic.
REVIEWED ON 3/25/2006 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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