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You Can't Cheat an Honest Man

(1939 b 79')

En: 6 Ed: 5


A circus manager flees the sheriff and bickers with a ventriloquist, who falls in love with the manager's daughter.

Phineas Whipsnade (John Arledge) wants his sister Vicki Whipsnade (Constance Moore) to marry rich Roger Bel-Goodie (James Bush), but she doesn't love him. Larson E. Whipsnade (W. C. Fields) and his circus cross the state line to escape the sheriff. Selling tickets, Larson short-changes by implying he gave them extra change. Larson trades insults with Charlie McCarthy, who performs with the great Edgar (Edgar Bergen). Cheerful (Eddie Anderson) helps Larson take a bath as the elephant showers him. Charlie demands money, and he is found in an alligator by Blacaman. Charlie has a boy shoot a slingshot at Larson as he performs. Burr (Arthur Hohl) and the sheriff look for Larson, but he is disguised as a bearded woman. Vicki watches Edgar and Charlie perform with Princess Baba. Edgar explains ventriloquism to Vicki. Larson avoids paying salaries but tells Vicki he is paid up. Edgar tells Charlie that Vicki has a sister, but she doesn't. Larson tells jokes with a dummy, but no one laughs. Edgar, Charlie, and Vicki sit in a balloon. Larson puts off the sheriff and Burr. Charlie has the elephant spray Larson.

Vicki learns the circus owes $3500 and calls Roger that she will marry him. Roger tells his mother, who ignores him. Edgar tells Charlie he is in love and will propose to Vicki. Larson cuts the rope so that Edgar and Charlie go up in the balloon. Larson tells Vicki getting married is like buying a new horse. Edgar finds the other dummy Mortimer Snerd in the balloon. Edgar has a parachute and jumps out with Charlie. They land in Vicki's moving car, but all three are put in jail. Larson leaves Chester (Grady Sutton) in charge of the circus and escapes the sheriff in a chariot. Larson arrives at the wedding and asks Phineas where Vicki is. Larson meets Roger's parents. Whenever he mentions snakes, Mrs. Bel-Goodie (Mary Forbes) faints. Vicki tells a judge she is getting married. Charlie tells Edgar to stop Vicki from marrying for money. Mrs. Sludge asks Larson to play ping-pong. Archibald Bel-Goodie (Thurston Hall) tells Larson to leave; but Vicki arrives to defend her father against Roger. The sheriff arrives, and Larson, Vicki, and Phineas escape in the chariot. Vicki says she loves Edgar, and they all race to the state line.

The title implies that crooks are vulnerable and fair game to cheat, and Larson warns against smartening up a chump. Fans of Fields' Vaudeville sketches and the cracks of Charlie McCarthy may find escapist entertainment in this comedy that implies the wealthy are too preoccupied to be worth loving.

Copyright © 2001 by Sanderson Beck

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