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Film / It's a Gift

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Harry Payne Bosterly: You're drunk!
Harold: And you're crazy. But I'll be sober tomorrow and you'll be crazy for the rest of your life.

It's a Gift is a 1934 film directed by Norman McLeod, starring W. C. Fields.

Fields is Harold Bissonette (pronounced Bis-so-NAY), owner of a not-exactly-thriving grocery store in New Jersey. Like many Fields protagonists he is trapped in a miserable home life, constantly nagged by his shrewish wife Amelia and irritated by his loud, bratty young son Norman. His older daughter Mildred is not quite as actively antagonistic but she's certainly selfish, caring only about her love affair with handsome young bank clerk John Durston.

Harold dreams of escape from his domestic prison, and has a fantasy of buying an orange grove out in sunny California. When his Uncle Ned dies and leaves him with a cash bequest, Harold actually buys the orange grove, much to his wife's horror. They then go on an arduous cross-country road trip, only to find that the "orange grove" Harold bought isn't what it was made out to be.


Commonly considered one of Fields' standout comedies. Recycled several gags from Fields' silent movie days, like the back porch sequence that originated with silent film It's the Old Army Game.


  • The Alleged Car: The old jalopy that the Bissonettes take to California goes about three feet at a time at first. When they finally make it to California and behold the dusty dirt field that is their "orange grove", a despairing Harold sits down on the car, only for it to all fall apart at once, like the Bluesmobile.
  • As You Know: Norman not only mentions Mildred's boyfriend but mentions him by name as "John Dunston".
  • Awful Wedded Life: Poor Harold, stuck with his nagging shrew of a wife and his bratty, selfish children. Notably, in the Happy Ending, his now-rich wife, kids, and son-in-law are going off together to do something, while Harold is left alone at home, happily drinking.
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  • Blind Mistake: Mr. Muckle is blind and half-deaf. Harold screams for his assistant at the grocery store to open the door as Mr. Muckle approaches, but it's too late, and Mr. Muckle smashes the glass in Harold's door with his cane. After Mr. Muckle comes in a busy Harold puts him in a chair and tells him to wait, only for Mr. Muckle to get up and browse, wrecking just about everything else breakable in the store with his cane. Then on the way out Mr. Muckle shatters the glass in the other door.
  • Black Comedy: Most of Fields' films were dark and cynical but this might be the darkest one. What makes it stand out is that in other films, like The Bank Dick, he hates his family as much as they hate him, and he seems content to spend life drunk. In this film he seems to genuinely want to provide a good life for his family, only to fail. The scene where he mutters "Everything goes at once" while looking at his barren "orange grove" and wrecked car is unusually moving for a Fields film.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: A staple of Fields' films, here represented by Harold's son Norman, who brays every line of dialogue at the top of his lungs, and does stuff like constantly blow on a whistle while they're driving in a car.
  • The Chew Toy: Harold just can't catch a break in the film. Granted, he's a jerk, but with all the crap he puts up with throughout the film, it's hard not to feel a little sorry for him.
  • Dangerously Close Shave: Harold is trying to shave himself with an old-timey and highly dangerous straight razor when Mildred barges into the bathroom and commandeers the mirror. In the long comic set piece that follows, she startles and bothers Harold many times while he's shaving, causing Harold to narrowly miss slicing himself.
  • Deus ex Machina: Just when Harold is gazing with despair on the empty, barren dust-choked field that was sold to him as an orange grove, his neighbor arrives and tells him that a construction company has to have Harold's land for the grandstand for a racetrack they're building. Harold sells for $40,000 and a real orange grove of his own.
  • Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery: Mr. Muckle is clearly aware of at least some of the damage he's doing. After smashing the glass in the front door of Harold's store he sarcastically asks "Did you leave the door closed again?"
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Harold, after going through a lot of crap throughout the film, ends up getting a lot of money off of his decripit shack and gets to buy a real, lush orange grove, where he can finally relax contently (when his family is busy elsewhere, anyway).
  • Henpecked Husband: The tone is set in the opening credits when the family is shown riding in the car, and a car horn goes off as Amelia opens her mouth. She is constantly nagging and berating her unfortunate husband. In one scene she keeps shouting at him after he leaves the room. In another, Harold goes out to the porch to sleep after Amelia is still nagging at him at 4:30 am.
  • Pretentious Pronunciation: Harold seems to have fooled his wife into thinking this. He insists that people pronounce his name "Bis-so-NAY", but only when his wife is around. At other times he's content to have his name rhymed with "bassinet". At the end of the movie the crates of oranges from the Bissonette orchard have the note "pronounced bis-so-NAY" printed on the side.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Harold at a picnic, standing up, cramming crackers into his mouth, resulting into a little snowfall of cracker flakes down onto Norman below.
  • Overly-Long Gag: The entire porch scene is just one long conga of things that keep Harold from getting any sleep.
  • Sleeping Single: Mr. and Mrs. Bissonette, although you can hardly blame poor Harold.
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: After smashing up Harold's store, Mr. Muckle the blind guy blissfully strolls across a busy street, while car after car misses him by the narrowest of margins.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Harold is about to strike the blissfully unaware toddler that keeps disturbing his sleep, until the boy's mother shows up and saves him.