1934. USA. Directed by Norman McLeod. Screenplay by Jack Cunningham, based on the play by W.C. Fields (as Charles Bogle) and the story by J.P. McEvoy. With Fields, Kathleen Howard, Jean Rouverol, Julian Madison, Tammany Young. Preserved print courtesy NBC Universal. 68 min.
The great American writer E. L. Doctorow—winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and PEN/Faulkner Award for enduring classics like Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, The Book of Daniel, and Creationists: Selected Essays 1993–2006—takes part in an onstage conversation moderated by Le Conversazioni artistic director Antonio Monda, followed by a screening of It’s a Gift, one of W. C. Fields’s funniest comedies, which Doctorow chose for the occasion. The eternally beleaguered Fields plays a small-town grocer who suffers the indignities of a shrewish wife, two obnoxious children, and the notorious Baby LeRoy. Hauling the family out west in pursuit of the American Dream—an orange grove to call his own—he becomes caught up in a zany land speculation deal, suckering and being suckered every step of the way.