As it turns out–it’s hard to tell from the first ten minutes–The Fatal Glass of Beer is something of a spoof of melodramas. Those first ten minutes though are mostly just W.C. Fields being a gold prospector in a snow storm. There’s very little narrative. Fields introduces one recurring gag and it shouldn’t work, but it does; in fact, it works better on each repeat.
There’s also some odd flashback to introduce George Chandler as Fields’s son.
Eventually, Rosemary Thelby shows up as Fields’s wife and the short becomes about the melodrama spoof. Chandler is getting out of prison it turns out. What’s particularly great about the short is this narrative structuring–the ground situation isn’t established until ten minutes into a twenty minute film.
Even after the introduction of Chandler, there’s more of Fields just being funny as a prospector before the astounding conclusion.
It’s hilarious; Fields is absolutely amazing.
Directed by Clyde Bruckman; written by W.C. Fields; produced by Mack Sennett; released by Paramount Pictures.
Starring W.C. Fields (Mr. Snavely), Rosemary Theby (Mrs. Snavely), George Chandler (Chester Snavely) and Richard Cramer (Officer Posthlewhistle).