Considered one of the least of W.C. Fields' films, this little more than an hour long morality tale directed by Erle C. Kenton (Island of Lost Souls)--an almost Rohmerish parable about snobbery--was a pleasant surprise discovery on the W. C. Fields Comedy Collection Vol. 2. This movie balances The Great Man with a sort of fairy godmother, an unhappy princess on the American tour. It could lure in female fans in who might be repelled by a real Fields day like The Bank Dick or Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. The Booze Movie blog, run by a 100-proof fan of Fields, mentions this film slightingly, pointing out that it was based on a short story published in the woman's magazine Redbook, and has Redbook's own lack of edge. (Incidentally, it's a nigh-shot for shot remake of an earlier silent version, the Gregory La Cava movie So's Your Old Man.)
The movie was out of circulation for some time; William K. Everson wrote that it was "a major disaster" that the public couldn't see it, in his 1972 book The Art of W.C. Fields. True, You're Telling Me! lacks in the written-by-pink-elephants whimsy of Fields at his most extreme. And yet there's an emotional center here that won't repel the harder-core fan of Fields, who was certainly the grandfather of Homer Simpson. Fields plays a gauche but intrepid drunkard named Sam Bisbee, in search of that million dollar payoff that'll bring him well-deserved leisure for life. It's his passing friendship with a female stranger on a train that makes it happen.