The Bank Dick (1940)

bank dick poster 1940 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Clever comedy

Old style comedy

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Bank Dick

Studio: Universal Pictures

Genre(s): Comedy

Release Date(s): November 29, 1930

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

bank dick wc fields mirror scene

Bad guys look out…there’s a new sheriff in town

Egbert Sousé (W.C. Fields) lives a life of leisure much to the dismay of his family.  Spending his time drinking and smoking, he is on the verge of bankruptcy.  When he accidentally foils the escape of a bank robber, he finds himself working for the bank where his daughter’s fiancé Og Oggilby (Grady Sutton) is a teller.  With word of a lucrative money deal, Sousé convinces Og to “borrow” money to buy shares of land under the premise of paying it back at the end of the week.  The arrival of bank inspector J. Pinkerton Snoopington (Franklin Pangborn) in town means Sousé must find a way to keep himself and Og out of trouble.

Directed by Edward F. Cline, The Bank Dick is a comedy film.  The movie was released to critical acclaim and often makes the “Best Of” lists.  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Archives in 1992, and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #78).

bank dick wc fields robbery kid

Looks like Sousé is going to have to kick some ass

I hadn’t seen any W.C. Fields movies, but I feel like I know W.C. Fields.  His character became an almost caricature of itself that other people imitated and copied his style of humor.  It transcended his movies.  The Bank Dick is a nice comedy, but it is also a comedy of its time.

The story is tangential.  It does (relatively) come together at the end, but it often feels like a series of skits rather than a coherent plot (especially the beginning segment with the directing of the movie).  It doesn’t feel that this ties in at all to the robbery or getting the job, but there is a throwback to it when everything is coming up roses for Fields at the end…but it also feels like there is enough “good things” happening that the money from the studio isn’t necessary.

bank dick wc fields robbery car

What if I just give you money and you leave me alone…maybe at the bar

W.C. Fields is as he is always portrayed.  Kind of bumbling and a dingy that is also kind of a sharp tack at times.  The movie is just him.  The other actors in the film feel along for the ride.  Franklin Pangborn and Grady Sutton get a little more play as the bank inspector and as Fields’ daughter’s fiancé, but the movie still belongs to Fields.  It feels like he almost had as much time to talk and joke as he wanted to.

The humor of the film comes from quick dialogue with pratfalls.  It isn’t to the level of the Three Stooges (though Shemp Howard plays the bartender) and one of the stunts in the ending car chase was directly based on a Buster Keaton gag from Sherlock Jr.

The Bank Dick is a fun film and a good showcase of Fields’ talents.  The movie has some smartness to the plot and writing that has to be looked into to fully appreciate and some of the jokes are even a little risqué for the time.  The movie is often available in movie packs and worth seeking out.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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