While neither of us were born in a trunk in the Princess Theatre in Pocatello, Idaho . . . my brother and I did spend a fair amount of time growing up backstage of a local community theatre where our parents sometimes performed (among other duties).
Dad also directed the summer show one year, built sets and designed a collapsible Gazebo for the finale of the play by the same name.
Over the years he and Mom appeared in various productions.
The impact of those early, formative years was profound and evident to this day.
Brother Jim went on to a sucessful show business career while I’ve been failing to set the literary world on fire for several decades.
But I digress . . .
One of the staples of the `summer shows’ put on by this theatre group was the melodrama.
I’m not sure how many times I saw Wm. H. Smith’s `The Drunkard’ from the wings, but it was often enough to indelibly etch the song `Supper was waiting for Daddy . . . ‘ in my brain.
This was the first, and arguably the most famous of the more than 100 temperance plays that were produced in American theaters between the mid-1800s and the early 1900s.
So in memory of those bygone days, I offer up an absolutely hilarious film staring the irrepressible W.C. Fields;
`The Fatal Glass of Beer’
By the time W.C. Fields made this comedy short in 1933 (the year prohibition was rescinded), these hoary tales of woe were decidedly outdated and laughable.
And so, masterfully, that’s exactly how Fields and company portray it.
This 18 minute send up of old fashioned melodramas is an absolute hoot, and was every bit as much a parody of the genre as AIRPLANE! was of airline disaster movies of the 1970s.
The running gag, where Fields opens the door and exclaims "it ain't a fit night out for man nor beast!", followed by getting a face full of fake snow (obviously hand tossed from off stage) is classic Fields deadpan, and not to be missed.
This is quite possibly my favorite Fields short, so sit back, relax, and enjoy 18 minutes of pure comic genius.