For Reel

Million Dollar Legs (1932)
June 15, 2014, 12:17 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edward F. Cline
4.5 Stars
Million Dollar LegsW.C. Fields’ first sound film plays like an avant-garde predecessor to Duck Soup, besting just about any Hollywood comedy of the era if one limits their criteria to the sheer absurdity of the gags. Jack Oakie stars as Migg Tweeny, a businessman who finds himself in the debt-ridden nation of Klopstokia. He quickly falls in love with the daughter of the nation’s president (Fields) and in order to win her father’s good graces he proposes that Klopstokia resolve their financial troubles by participating in the Olympic games. Veteran comic director Edward F. Cline is fairly graceless behind the camera–the blocking is often awkward and very rarely do match cuts actually match–but the sloppiness of the production adds to its rough, hangdog appeal. Little of what happens makes much sense, typified by the early appearances of a spy known as the Mysterious Man (Ben Turpin) who disappears entirely about a third of the way into the narrative. This tone of reckless abandon gives the picture a sort of comic surrealism, which is only heightened by the chaotic inventiveness of the gags–in one sequence, for instance, a man dressed in a goat costume races through a forest at superhuman speeds. Nonsensical and a complete mess in just about every way, Million Dollar Legs is no less some kind of masterpiece.