Black SplatYou Can't Cheat An Honest Man (1939)

"Are you eating a tomato or is that your nose?"

You Can't Cheat An Honest Man - Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen

Description: One of many put-downs expressed by ventriloquist dummy Charlie McCarthy to ventrilquist Edgar Bergen) in the movie You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939).

In the film, W.C. Fields plays Larson E. Whipsnade the proprietor of Circus Giganticus, a financially troubled road show. When his daughter Vicky returns from college on a visit and realizes her father's dire situation, she decides to marry wealthy socialite Roger Bel-Goodie, even know she does not love him.

She does love, however Edgar Bergen, one of Whipsnade's performers who headlines a ventriloquist act featuring dummy Charlie McCarthy, a smart-mouthed fellow dressed in a tuxedo, top hat and monocle.

On the day of the wedding, Vicky is late and is arrested for speeding and taken to police headquarters. Meanwhile, her father arrives at the groom's home in a horse drawn chariot where his his uncouth manner is unacceptable to the Bel-Goodies blue-blood sensibilities. When Vicky is released on bail and gets to the wedding, she finds social discord abounds as the Bel-Goodies and her father are locked in contentious verbal combat.

Mr. Archibald Bel-Goodie: You absent yourself from this house immediately! You egregious tartuffle!
Whipsnade: Tartuffle? Is that good or bad?
Mr. Archibald Bel-Goodie: You're a fraud, a charlatan and a rogue, sir!
Whipsnade: Oh, is that in my favor?

Into the mix comes a sheriff intent on serving Whipsnade with another summons. But the entire Whipsnade clan - Vicky, her brother Phineas and Larson - escape the scene in their chariot where they come upon Edgar Bergen peddling a bicycle. As they pass him, Vicky shouts she is now free to marry him, and upon hearing such good news, Bergen frantically peddles his bike to catch up with his wife to be.

NOTE: Ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his wisecracking wooden dummy Charlie McCarthy were icons of Americana performing on stage, radio, movies and television from the 1920-70s. In 1936, Edgar Bergen had his own radio show on THE CHASE AND SANBORN HOUR. It was at this time that the legendary feud between the brassy Charlie McCarthy and the inebriated comedian/movie star W. C. Fields occurred.

Fields: Tell me Charlie, is it true your father was a gateleg table?
Charlie: Well, if it is, your father was under it.
Fields: Quiet, you flop house for termites, I’ll whittle you down
to a coat hanger.
Charlie: [Screaming] I’ll mow you down, so help me, I'll Mooowww ya’ down.

Other examples W.C Fields responding to Charlie McCarthy's insults:

  • “Quiet, or I’ll throw a woodpecker at you.”
  • You must come down with me after the show to the lumberyard and ride piggyback on the buzz saw.”
  • " I shall send over a couple of pet beavers to romp with you."

You Can't Cheat An Honest Man - W.C. Fields, Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen

Another dummy character introduced into Bergen’s act included Mortimer Snerd, a chuckling, dimwitted, silly buck-toothed country bumpkin (Charlie's cousin). Once Edgar Bergen appeared on an episode of THE JACK BENNY SHOW/CBS/1950-65 where Jack Benny visited Bergen’s home only to find his famous dummies actually walking around like real people. When Jack asked Mortimer Snerd how he got so stupid? Mortimer replied, “ got a good deal and I couldn’t turn it down.”

See also - Poppy and Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen at TV ACRES

Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938)
W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty: Ah, yes, my little chickadee. Let me inspect your tiny brood. Uh, so it's you.
Charlie McCarthy: Ha, ha, ha. Lovely day, lovely day. What a beautiful sunrise. Or is that your nose?
W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty: Why, you... Lucifer. I'll show you...
Charlie McCarthy: Now don't get hard-boiled, or I'll sic an egg beater on you.
W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty: I'll mow you down! [Loses balance]
W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty: Look out below. [Falls head first on a mushroom]
Charlie McCarthy: Bottoms up, Mr. Egg. Bottoms up.

You Can't Treat An Honest Man - Charlie McCarthy, W.C. Fields and Edgar Bergen

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