Never Give a Sucker an Even Break

1941 film by Edward F. Cline / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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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.

Quick facts: Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, Directed b...
Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
Theatrical poster
Directed byEdward F. Cline
Screenplay byJohn T. Neville
Prescott Chaplin
Story by"Otis Criblecoblis" (W. C. Fields)
Produced byJack Gross[1]
StarringW. C. Fields
Gloria Jean
CinematographyCharles Van Enger
Edited byArthur Hilton
Music byCharles Previn
Frank Skinner
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 10, 1941 (1941-10-10) (U.S.)
Running time
70-70.5 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States

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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