THE SCREEN; W.C. Fields Joins Hands With Bing Crosby in the Paramount's Easter Attraction "Mississippi."..,
Amid an atmosphere of magnolia, crinoline and Kentucky whisky, the boozy genius of Mr. Fields and the subterranean croon of Mr. Crosby strike a happy compromise in "Mississippi," the new film at the Paramount Theatre. Having its money on Mr. Fields, this column considered the photo play only pleasant when he wasn't around, preferring during those interludes to remember how the Commodore of the River Queen shuddered with ecstasy in the grip of a mint julep or how he looked when he drew the five aces. But that, as Jimmy Durante would say, is ingratitood "Mississippi" is a tuneful and diverting show even when it isn't being particularly hilarious, and it is madly funny at sufficient length to satisfy us Fields idolaters. The Paramount has served its Easter Week clientele generously.
Naturally, it is Bill Fields, the beery aristocrat of the river, the bogus Indian fighter, the prodigious quaffer of rum, the greatest liar afloat, who provides the entertainment with its memorable moments. You ought to be told about that marvelous poker game in which the Commodore, surrounded by Southern gentlemen and primed pistols, deals himself five aces and then makes desperate and fruitless efforts to reduce his holding to the more orthodox four. Then there are some hoary but reliable monkeyshines about the cigar-store Indians who invade the dazed vision of the Commodore like a tribe of authentic redskins in quest of scalps, causing him to seek a hasty refuge in a bottle of bourbon, which he dilutes with two timid spurts of soda.
A good-natured burlesque of the old Mississippi dueling code, freely adapted from Booth Tarkmgton's "Magnolia," the film tells about the soft-spoken lad from Philadelphia who is about to marry into a Kentucky family. When he declines to fight a duel for his lady's honor he is sent off scornfully into the night, despite his sensible plea that the proposed affair of honor is somewhat lacking in motivation. So he joins Commodore Jackson's showboat troupe on the River Queen. Under that gentleman's tutelage he acquires a considerable paper reputation as a dead shot and soon is being billed as The Notorious Colonel Blake, the Singing Killer. Then he falls in love with Miss Joan Bennett, the sympathetic younger sister of his former fiancee, and finally bullies the Kentucky aristocracy into a cocked hat.
Mr. Crosby, who is a personable light comedian as well as a husky-voiced master of the croon, makes an excellent partner for Mr. Fields. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart have composed some appropriate romantic numbers for him. Miss Bennett, modest and charming in her pantalettes, is admirably suited to the demure requirements of her part Queenie Smith appears rather too briefly as one of the belles of the River Queen. Concealed behind goatees, ten-gallon hats, stogies and itching pistols, you will find such reliable performers as Claude Gillingwater, Fred Kohler, John Miljan and Ed Pawley. But the spot news in Forty-third Street concerns Mr. Fields. "Women," he proclaims in one of his numerous oratorical flights, "are like elephants to me. They are all right to look at, but I wouldn't like to own one."