The Bank Dick

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The Bank Dick
WC Fields.gif
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEdward F. Cline
Written byMahatma Kane Jeeves
(W. C. Fields)
StarringW. C. Fields
Music byCharles Previn
CinematographyMilton R. Krasner
Editing byArthur Hilton
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • November 29, 1940 (1940-11-29)
Running time72 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
 
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The Bank Dick
WC Fields.gif
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEdward F. Cline
Written byMahatma Kane Jeeves
(W. C. Fields)
StarringW. C. Fields
Music byCharles Previn
CinematographyMilton R. Krasner
Editing byArthur Hilton
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • November 29, 1940 (1940-11-29)
Running time72 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

The Bank Dick (released as The Bank Detective in the United Kingdom) is a 1940 comedy film. Set in Lompoc, California, W. C. Fields plays a character named Egbert Sousé who trips a bank robber and ends up a security guard as a result. The character is a drunk who must repeatedly remind people in exasperation that his name is pronounced "Sousé – accent grave [sic] over the 'e'!", because people keep calling him "Souse" (slang for drunkard). In addition to bank and family scenes, it features Fields pretending to be a film director and ends in a chaotic car chase. The Bank Dick is considered a classic of his work, incorporating his usual persona as a drunken henpecked husband with a shrewish wife, disapproving mother-in-law, and savage children.[citation needed]

The film was written by Fields, using the alias Mahatma Kane Jeeves (derived from the Broadway drawing-room comedy cliche, "My hat, my cane, Jeeves!"),[citation needed] and directed by Edward F. Cline. Shemp Howard, one of the Three Stooges, plays a bartender.

In 1992, The Bank Dick was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Cast[edit]

Additional crew[edit]

Highlights[edit]

Fields by now was considerably heavier than in his henpecked-husband pictures of just five or six years earlier, and his voice suggests that he may have been suffering from a cold during the film's production.[citation needed] Nonetheless, the film contains some well-known scenes and dialogue:[citation needed]

Joe the bartender (Shemp): "Yeah!"
Egbert: "Oh, boy, is that a load off my mind. (chuckles) I thought I'd lost it!"

In talking Og into embezzling from the bank and encountering resistance, Egbert says: "Don't be a luddy duddy. Don't be a moon calf. Don't be a jabbernowl. You're not those, are you?" (Fields, whose ear for the preposterous-sounding phrase, word, or name was unparalleled, claimed to have found the words in a dictionary.[citation needed]

The film contains some elements of Fields' "everyman" films from the early 1930s, in which he plays the verbally-abused spouse who attains financial security and finally the respect of his nagging family. In this film, he parodies that character to some degree, as much of the criticism is deserved. Early in the film, as the family is bad-mouthing Egbert (for example, for taking money from the younger daughter's piggybank and leaving IOUs), a humorously-orchestrated version of "No Place Like Home" plays in the underscore. At the end, with the family now wealthy and playing the parts of exaggerated polite-society characters, "No Place Like Home"" plays again, in a more sincere-sounding melody.

The fake-French pronunciation of his name, established in the film's very first scene, echoes the running joke in It's a Gift, in which Fields and his wife were constantly telling people to pronounce the family name, Bisonette, as "bi-son-AY".

On his way out the door for the last time in the picture, the butler hands Egbert his hat and cane (living up to Fields' writing pseudonym), and Egbert executes two of his time-honored "juggling" bits: bouncing the cane on the floor and catching it on the rebound; then putting his top hat on and catching it on the tip of the cane instead. As he strolls down the sidewalk, he hears someone whistling "Listen to the Mocking Bird." It turns out to be Joe the bartender (Shemp), and Egbert changes direction and walks quickly toward his pal as the song finishes in the underscore (coincidentally, the song was at one time a recurring theme song for The Three Stooges, a comedy team that Shemp Howard later rejoined).

Reviews[edit]

The movie has received many favorable reviews. Respected film critic Leslie Halliwell deemed it, "probably the best Fields vehicle there is",[citation needed] and W.C. Fields biographer Robert Lewis Taylor called it, "One of the great classics of American comedy".[citation needed]

Otis Ferguson, however, wasn't so keen on it. He said, "When the man (W.C. Fields) is funny he is terrific... but the story is makeshift, the other characters are stock types, the only pace discernible is the distance between drinks or the rhythm of the fleeting seconds it takes Fields to size up trouble and duck the hell out."[citation needed] The film currently has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 100%.

External links[edit]