You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939) - Rotten Tomatoes

You Can't Cheat an Honest Man1939

You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

You Can't Cheat an Honest Man Photos

Movie Info

In his starring film for Universal Pictures, W.C. Fields plays circus manager and all-around flim flam man Larson E. Whipsnade. When he's not trying to fleece the customers or elude the sheriff, Whipsnade busys himself trying to break up the romance between his daughter Vicky (Constance Moore) and carnival ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (playing himself). He also carries on a running feud with Bergen's nattily attired dummy Charlie McCarthy ("I'll slash you into venetian blinds!"). Bergen's other dummy is Mortimer Snerd, who occasionally comments upon the action in his own thickheaded fashion. Anxious to arrange a marriage between Vicki and the wealthy Roger Bel-Goodie III (James Bush), Whipsnade disposes of Bergen and his dummies by sending them aloft in a hot-air baloon. Attending a party at the Bel-Goodie mansion, Whipsnade makes a pest of himself by constantly referring to snakes, a subject that invariably causes Mrs. Bel-Goodie (Mary Forbes) to swoon. He also engages in a zany ping-pong tournament with socialite Ronnie (Ivan Lebedeff). But it is Vicki, and not Whipsnade, who breaks up the engagement by telling off her pompous fiance. At that very instant, Bergen, having escaped from the balloon, arrives to claim Vicki and to help Whipsnade escape the sheriff once more. A partial remake of the W.C. Fields silent Two Flaming Youths, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man was scripted by Fields under the pseudonym "Charles Bogle." As published in the 1973 compendium W.C. Fields by Himself, the original screenplay was to have had dramatic overtones, including the death of Fields' trapeze-artist wife and a climactic soul-baring scene wherein Fields expresses his genuine love for his daughter. All this was jettisoned when it was decided to capitalize on the Fields-Charlie McCarthy "feud" then blazing on radio's Chase and Sanborn Show. While nowhere near as funny as Fields' subsequent Universal feature The Bank Dick, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man still contains a generous supply of laughs. Our favorite line: "Somebody's taken the cork out of my lunch."


W.C. Fields
as Larson E. Whipsnade
Edgar Bergen
as The Great Edgar
Constance Moore
as Victoria Whipsnade
Mary Forbes
as Mrs. Bel-Goodie
Thurston Hall
as Archibald Bel-Goodie
John Arledge
as Phineas Whipsnade
Grady Sutton
as Chester Dalrymple
Ferris Taylor
as Deputy Sheriff
James Bush
as Roger Bel-Goodie III
Jan Duggan
as Mrs. Sludge
Walter Tetley
as Boy with Candy Cane
Evelyn Del Rio
as Little Girl Who Cries
Delmar Watson
as Boy in Bleachers
David Oliver
as Man at Window
Edward Woolf
as Thin Man
Lee Phelps
as Sheriff
Ethelreda Leopold
as Blonde at Party
Don Terry
as Ping Pong Player
Byron Munson
as Ping Pong Player
Edward Thomas
as Butler With Phone
Ted Hardy
as Russian Circus Performer
Dorothy Arnold
as Debutante
Si Jenks
as Hillbilly
Joe King
as Policeman
Ralph Sanford
as Truck Driver
Eddy Chandler
as Highway Patrol Officer
Lelah Tyler
as Society Woman
Jack Clifford
as Riding Master
Ray Mayer
as Fire Eater
Ted Offenbecker
as Western Union Messenger
George Offerman Jr.
as Western Union Messenger
Grace Goodall
as Spinster
Dick Dickinson
as Contortionist
Bill Wolfe
as Hillbilly Twin
Bill Worth
as Hillbilly Twin
George Ovey
as Circus Attendant
Billy Engle
as Circus Attendant
Lewis H. Morphy
as Circus Attendant
Bobby Hare
as Circus Attendant
Jack Gardner
as Ticket Seller
Art Yeoman
as Barker
Sam Harris
as Wedding Guest
Russell Wade
as Wedding Guest
Ralph Brooks
as Wedding Guest
Dale Van Sickel
as Wedding Guest
David Ward
as Chester
View All

Critic Reviews for You Can't Cheat an Honest Man

All Critics (1)

Not as undiluted as It's a Gift or The Bank Dick, but invaluable if only for Fields' flirtation with the resident ping-pong nympho

September 25, 2009 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for You Can't Cheat an Honest Man


So I'm on a ventriloquist kick right now, it's all Jeff Dunham's fault.

Megan S
Megan S

Super Reviewer


It's not W.C. Fields's best, but it does have quite a few funny moments.

Anthony Valletta
Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer

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