A screenplay of W.C. Fields' Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
Typescript titled "The Great Man," written by John T. Neville and Prescott Chaplin from an original story by Otis Criblecoblis (pseudonym of W.C. Fields), 112 pp, on yellow foolscap, 4to, [Los Angeles], June 21, 1941, with minor penciled annotations in an unknown hand, bound in grayish-green wraps stamped "6915" and "Property of Universal City Studios / Return to Central Files," covers toned and creased, 1 inch cut to left margin, interior lightly thumbed. WITH: Mimeographed Manuscript titled "The Great Man," written by John T. Neville and Prescott Chaplin from an original story by Criblecoblis, 108 pp, 4to, [Los Angeles], July 1, 1941, bound in grayish-green stamped 6915" and "file copy," and with "Marion Pechr(?)" penciled to upper right corner, covers toned with chipping and loss at fore-edges, interior clean. Together in custom clamshell box.
Provenance: Serendipity Books (penciled notation by Peter Howard to upper cover of p 1 of each script); the Richard Manney Collection.
Never Give a Sucker an Even Break was Fields' last starring role, and the first time a studio gave him control over script and casting. The final product, an absurdist comedy in which Fields appears as himself trying to pitch a film to the studio, struck Universal as so bizarre that they recut and reshot parts of it before releasing. Today, however, it is a classic of his canon and one of the most beloved of all "movies about the movies."
The Fields archive at the Margaret Herrick Library has several drafts of The Great Man/Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, including two copies each of the June 5 and July 1 drafts, but they do not appear to have a copy of the June 21 draft present here.