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Sam Bisbee is an inventor whose works (e.g., a keyhole finder for drunks) have brought him only poverty. His daughter is in love with the son of the town snob. Events conspire to ruin his bullet-proof tire just as success seems near. Another of his inventions prohibits him from committing suicide, so Sam decides to go on living..Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fields' character Bisbee describes a possible scenario involving catching burglars in the basement and drinking with them, a scenario that would be played out in a later film, Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935). See more »
Rosita is brushing Princess Lescaboura's nails and after Rosita says, "But you must.", the Princess' hands are under the table. See more »
[to his assistant]
If I had enough money to pay your back salary, I'd fire you.
See more »
YOU'RE TELLING ME? (Paramount, 1934), directed by Erle C. Kenton, adapted from the story "Mr. Bisbee's Princess" by Julian Street, stars W.C Fields in his first domestic comedy since his silent comedy days of the late 1920s, reprising the character he originated from SO'S YOUR OLD MAN (Paramount, 1926). In spite of some script alterations, ranging from the invention of unbreakable glass to punctured proof tires, the basic premise remains the same. As in most comedies displaying Fields the family man, he's a lovable father worshiped by an offspring, in many instances, his daughter, looked upon by his spouse as a miserable failure, until success comes his way for his wife to have a new outlook on him. While she may still appear to have lost interest in him, she hasn't lost her pride by elevating herself to the level of her husband's rewarded success.
For the basic plot: Samuel Bisbee (WC Fields) lives in a small town of Crystal Springs. He supports his wife, Abigail, (Louise Carter), formerly Abigail Warren of the acclaimed Warrens of Virginia, and daughter, Pauline (Joan Marsh). Sam is an optometrist who spends most of his time working on several inventions at the shop. In between his intervals, he gets together with the neighboring husbands enjoying themselves drinking liquor. Aside from domestic problems involving Pauline's love for Bob Murchinson (Larry "Buster" Crabbe), son of society snob, Mrs. Edward Quimby Murchinson (Kathleen Howard), who disapproves of their relationship, especially after meeting her father. As everything seems to fail, Bisbee gets a registered letter from the National Tire Company asking for a demonstration of his latest invention, a punctured-proof tire. Things go wrong when his automobile, equipped with the punctured proof tires, parked in a non-parking zone to be towed during Bisbee's absence and substituted by the same make and model police car. Bisbee demonstrates the puncture proof tire to Mr. Robbins (George Irving) by shooting at them, only to witness tires going flat one at a time. Foiled again, Sam takes the next train home. Depressed, he decides to commit suicide, leaving his wife a note before swallowing some iodine, but instead, mistakes a woman passenger (Adrienne Ames) with a bottle of iodine with intentions of doing the same thing, thus "saving her life." Unaware that she's the famed Princess Lescaboura traveling incognito, he befriends her in her cabin, telling her his life story. Seen together by town gossips, rumor spreads about Bisbee's secret rendezvous on the train with an attractive woman. Finding Bisbee in need of encouragement, the princess helps him by coming to Crystal Springs, surprising, in fact, shocking the people of her sole purpose being to visit her "good friend," Samuel Bisbee, the one who "saved her life in the war."
A domestic comedy with its ups and downs, is definitely a WC Fields showcase from his unsuccessful to successful inventions; attempt to make up with his wife a giant Ostrich as a gift; to his climatic golf game lifted from one of Fields' many comic supplements originated on the stage, and duplicated in his comedy short, THE GOLF SPECIALIST (1930), this time with Tammany Young as the caddy stooge.
Kathleen Howard, famous for pairing as Fields' shrewish wife in both IT'S A GIFT (1934) and THE MAN OF THE FLYING TRAPEZE (1935), makes her initial appearance with him here. Louise Carter, a physically fragile looking woman, as the domineering wife, shows her lack of love for her husband when in one instant, is told by the visiting Princess, "I think you're the luckiest woman in the world." Mrs. Bisbee asks, "Is my husband dead?" "Buster" Crabbe, the famed swimming champion who scored success as Kaspa, the lion man, in KING OF THE JUNGLE (Paramount, 1933), and the chaptered serial, TARZAN THE FEARLESS (1933), ranks one of the stronger supporting names ever credited in a Fields comedy, yet his secondary role, gives him little to do, especially during the climatic golf game sequence where all he does is look on approvingly and smile. Joan Marsh as Bisbee's daughter, with hairstyle and features resembling Mary Carlisle, another Paramount starlet, has her limitations as well. Adrienne Ames as the princess, addressed as "Marie" by Bisbee, comes off better, as the sympathetic character who helps Sam Bisbee regain his confidence and respect from his family and townspeople. She's the one who uses the titled catch phrase, "You're telling me?"
YOU'RE TELLING ME? is a sort after Fields comedy. Once unavailable for viewing, it finally surfaced on commercial television in the late 1970s, which, by then, was a totally unfamiliar Fields comedy. Prior to that, when TV Guide had the title "You're Telling Me" listed, it turned out to be not the Fields edition but a Universal 1942 comedy bearing the same title starring Hugh Herbert. The Fields edition gained its recognition when presented, along with other Fields/ Paramount comedies, on American Movie Classics (1992-93). Out of circulation for nearly a decade, YOU'RE TELLING ME?, which has since been distributed on video cassette, received some further exposure on Turner Classic Movies (2001-2002).
As with themes to many Frank Capra comedies about the common man, "No man is a failure ... when he has friends," this goes for Samuel Bisbee who finds the true friendship with Princess Lescaboura, proving to him that he, in true essence, is not a failure at all. YOU'RE TELLING ME? is an enjoyable 66 minutes,not only displaying Fields' comedic talents as inventor who's no Thomas Edison, but a family man with a sympathetic nature, even when sneaking in drink or two. You're telling me? (**1/2)
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