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It's a Gift
Theatrical poster to It's a Gift (1934)
Directed byNorman Z. McLeod
Written byJack Cunningham
Based onThe Comic Supplement
1925 play
by J.P. McEvoy, story by Charles Bogle (Fields)[1]
Produced byWilliam LeBaron
StarringW.C. Fields
Baby LeRoy
CinematographyHenry Sharp
Music byJohn Leipold
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • November 17, 1934 (1934-11-17)
Running time
68 minutes
CountryUnited States

It's a Gift is a 1934 American comedy film starring W.C. Fields. It was Fields's 16th sound film, and his fifth in 1934 alone. It was directed by Norman McLeod, who had directed Fields in his cameo as Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland (1933).

The film concerns the trials and tribulations of a grocer as he battles a shrewish wife, an incompetent assistant, and assorted annoying children, customers, and salesmen. The film reprises routines honed by Fields from his career over the years 1915–1925. Fields often tried to recapture sketches that led to his stage success onto film; skits such as "The Picnic", "A Joy Ride", and most famously, "The Back Porch" are all featured in It's a Gift.[2]

Lesser known than some of Fields' later works such as The Bank Dick, the film is perhaps the best example of the recurring theme of the Everyman battling against his domestic entrapment. Historians and critics have often cited its numerous memorable comic moments. It is one of several Paramount Pictures in which Fields contended with child actor Baby LeRoy.

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After he inherits some money, Harold Bissonette (mispronounced by his pompous wife as "biss-on-ay") decides to give up the grocery business, move to California, and run an orange ranch. Despite his family's objections and the news that the land he bought is worthless, Bissonette packs up and drives out to California with his nagging wife Amelia, self-involved daughter Mildred, and bothersome son Norman. As they pass several prosperous orange groves, his wife softens and figures he made a good purchase. The information about the orange grove is confirmed; his barren plot contains only a tumbledown shack, and a tumbleweed. Disgusted, his wife and family are walking out on him. As he sits down on the car's running board, the car collapses under his weight.

Just when Harold is about to lose all hope, though, his luck takes a dramatic turn; a neighbor informs him that a developer is desperate to acquire his land to build a grandstand for a race track. Finally standing up for himself, and to his nagging wife, Harold holds out for a large sum of money (including a commission for the friendly neighbor), as well as a demand that the developer buy him an orange grove like the one in the brochure he has been carrying throughout the film. The film ends with Harold sitting at an outdoor breakfast table squeezing orange juice into a glass, while his happy family takes off for a ride in their new car. The now-contented Harold pours a flask of booze into the small amount of orange juice in the glass.

The film is a chronicle of the "many titanic struggles between Harold Bissonnette and the universe. There will be battle of wills between father and daughter, between male and female, between man and a variety of uncontrollable objects."[3]

The plot is almost secondary to the series of routines that make up the film. Over the course of the picture, Harold fails to prevent a blind customer named Mr. Muckle (and Baby LeRoy) from turning his store into a disaster area; attempts to share a bathroom mirror with his self-centered, high-pitched, gargling daughter; has a destructive picnic on private property; and in the film's lengthy centerpiece, is driven to sleep on the porch by his haranguing wife, and is kept awake all night by neighbors (including further trouble with the mother of the baby who caused damage in his grocery store), salesmen, and assorted noises and calamities.

A well-known, and often somewhat misquoted Fields comment occurs at the climax of the film, as Harold is haggling with the developer, who angrily claims that Harold is drunk. Harold responds, "Yeah, and you're crazy; and I'll be sober tomorrow and ... you'll be crazy for the rest of your life!"


Additional cast: Jerry Mandy, James Burke, Edith Kingdon, The Avalon Boys and Billy Engle.[1]

Additional production credits


A contemporary review from 'Argus' in The Literary Digest, 1935, declared: "It is clumsy, crude, and quite amateurish in its appearance. It merely happens that a great comedian appears in it and has a free hand in his brilliant clowning, with the result that defects become unimportant, and the film emerges as a comedy delight."[4]

As of January, 2023 the film has a reviewer rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

In 2010, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[6][7][8][9]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in:

See also


  1. ^ a b c Deschner, Donald (1966). The Films of W.C. Fields. New York: Cadillac Publishing by arrangement with The Citadel Press. p. 103.
  2. ^ Louvish, p.20
  3. ^ Simon Louvish, Its a Gift, BFI Film Classics, p.10 ISBN 0-85170-472-7
  4. ^ Louvish, Simon; British Film Institute (1994). It's a Gift. BFI Publishing. ISBN 9780851704722. Retrieved June 24, 2019 – via Internet Archive. clumsy crude quite amateurish.
  5. ^ "It's a Gift". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved January 30, 2023.
  6. ^ Nuckols, Ben (December 29, 2010). "'Empire Strikes Back' among 25 film registry picks". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  7. ^ Barnes, Mike (December 28, 2010). "'Empire Strikes Back,' 'Airplane!' Among 25 Movies Named to National Film Registry". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
  8. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  9. ^ "Hollywood Blockbusters, Independent Films and Shorts Selected for 2010 National Film Registry". Library of Congress. Retrieved November 17, 2020.
  10. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved August 6, 2016.

External links

This page was last edited on 18 December 2023, at 03:55
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