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Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (known in some international releases as What a Man!) is a 1941 Universal Pictures comedy film starring W. C. Fields. Fields also wrote the original story, under the pseudonym Otis Criblecoblis. Fields plays himself, promoting an extravagant screenplay he has written. As he describes the script to a skeptical producer, the often surreal scenes are shown.
|Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
|Edward F. Cline
|John T. Neville
|"Otis Criblecoblis" (W. C. Fields)
|W. C. Fields
|Charles Van Enger
The title is derived from lines from two earlier films. In Poppy (1936), he tells his daughter "If we should ever separate, my little plum, I want to give you just one bit of fatherly advice: Never give a sucker an even break!" In You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), he tells a customer that his grandfather's last words, "just before they sprung the trap", were "You can't cheat an honest man; never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump."
Fields fought with studio producers, directors, and writers over the content of his films. He was determined to make a movie his way, with his own script and staging, and his choice of supporting players. Universal finally gave him the chance, and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break was the result. Fields chose most of the supporting cast. He chose Universal's young singing star Gloria Jean to play his niece and hired two of his favorite comedians, Leon Errol and Franklin Pangborn, to play supporting roles. Margaret Dumont, best known as the Marx Brothers' matronly foil, was cast as the haughty Mrs. Hemogloben. Fields was paid $125,000 for his performance and $25,000 for his original story.
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