70 of 1001 Movies: The Bank Dick (1940)

It’s interesting to see what made people laugh in the 40s verse the comedy we have these days. Comedy also seemed to want to be edgy, though what is edgy changes with the time. In this movie it’s all about a guy who is pretty much a mess up, and drunkard landing in situations where people trust him to carry out important jobs. Edward F. Cline has a way of capturing the comedy of W.C Fields that helps make it funny even to audiences who find that many of their movies don’t lean on those type of comedic antics anymore.

Egbert Souse is a father, and husband who doesn’t seem to be held to well regards in his own family, but the surrounding citizens of the town he lives in seem to think better of him since they haven’t spent much time around him. While being a substitute director one day for a movie he goes off to see if the bar is open that he frequents only to find it closed. When he is out he inadvertently stops a robbery, and the law enforcement deem him a hero. The bank then offers him a position as the detective at the bank, or as you would call the position The Bank Dick. He takes the job treating it about as serious as any other job he’s had.


The Bank Dick isn’t a movie that is supposed to show the great change or development of a character. It’s appropriately only an hour and twelve minutes long, and for the most part it aims to make the audience laugh. Of course, a lot of “three stooges” antics are involved to achieve this. We hear lots of added noises, and see people fall, and get feathers stuck in their hair unknowingly. While this is the comedy of 2013, it is still something you can laugh at if you allow yourself to get into the movie. There is something funny about the timing of it. Also, for a movie that was coming out of the era where prohibition was pushed hard I figure it was quite edgy to have a guy who frequented the bar as your main character, and still hope audiences would come in to watch him.

W.C Fields might remind many people of a grandfather, or uncle. Fields though had a talent for balancing his comedy and acting, and pushing that genre forward. Rightly so, he becomes the center of the film. Since the movie is short you don’t really get to know any of the other characters well, and for the type of movie this is it works. It isn’t about showcasing any sort of change on the character’s part, but more so how a hand full of mishaps winded up putting Souse in a better place than he ever had been while he still maintains true to who he is. Maybe that is the point? He’s just a guy who living who he is, and he ends up well off?

This movie also has the beginning of that 40s vibe of movies, which is probably one of the stronger decades of movies. The 30s has some good stuff, but it still feels like the transitioning is being smoothed out in movies along with the sound, but this one has been touched up and shot in a way that makes it really easy to hear and watch. It progresses simply enough that you can keep up with what is happening at least up till the end, and then there is one final scene that really throws you off. It made the ending poor because most people unless they were paying insanely good attention won’t know why it ends the way it does.

How you receive The Bank Dick as a movie will depend on what type of comedy you are into. Considering the more we slid away from this decade the more unpopular this branch of it became. Watching it though gives you insight to the times, and it is entertaining. The car chase is actually quite well done too considering what they had to work with. They capture the action quite well though. There is a little bit during it that seems a little off though. Overall, not a very deep movie, but one that provides a few laughs and is interesting.

Rating 3 of 5.

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