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  • From the very first moments of The Golf Specialist, W. C. Fields' talkie debut, it's apparent that we're watching a technically primitive effort that can't hold a candle to The Great Man's best comedies. It's comparable to the Marx Brothers' first film The Cocoanuts in a number of ways, from the stilted pacing and uncertain camera work right down to the obviously bogus "Florida" location that looks suspiciously like it was staged in a cramped and stuffy East Coast studio. But, as with the Marxes' debut, there are stretches when the comedy transcends the antiquated technique and you find yourself laughing anyhow. This film features a prolonged opening sequence in a hotel lobby (again reminiscent of The Cocoanuts) that lurches from bit to bit without ever finding a consistent comic rhythm, although there are some amusing moments. Some of the actors-- especially the old guy playing the sailor --are downright amateurish, and when Fields finally makes his entrance it comes as a relief. He's still wearing that icky little mustache he wore in his silent comedies, but it's good to see him anyway. Almost immediately he's confronted by a little girl with an annoyingly shrill voice, and their run-in serves as a dress rehearsal of sorts for Fields' many battles with obnoxious children yet to come.

    Again like The Cocoanuts this film, despite its technical limitations, stands as a valuable record of a popular stage act of the Jazz Age, for the second half preserves Fields' famous golf routine. Variously known as "A Game of Golf" and "An Episode on the Links," the act was introduced in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1918 and is a set-piece of gradually mounting frustration. The act features Fields on the golf links simply trying to cue up and hit a ball while his lady friend watches. He is thwarted at every turn by distracting sounds, a misplaced pie, errant wrapping paper that somehow winds up in his mouth, the misbehavior of his golf clubs, and most of all by the bizarre little man who serves as his caddy. Fields used a portion of the act in his silent feature So's Your Old Man but it lost some of its punch in the silent medium, what with so much of the comedy depending on sudden noises. Here at least we get to hear the appropriate sound effects and savor Fields' quips and murmured ramblings, although personally I find his over-reliance on the phrase "Stand clear and keep your eye on the ball!" wearisome after awhile. But unsung leading lady Shirley Grey provides a boost with a number of amusingly delivered Dumb Dora remarks, while a comic named Al Woods is a hoot as Fields' oddball caddy.

    Actress Louise Brooks was a dancer in the Follies in the mid-1920s when Fields revived his golf act and she used to watch him from the wings on a nightly basis. Brooks later said that the routine was never as funny in the movies as it was on stage. That surely must be so, but we can only imagine how much funnier it was when Fields was working off the response of a live audience. In any case, having this record of the act is better than nothing, and in the meantime viewers who find The Golf Specialist disappointing will want to take a look at Fields' underrated 1934 feature You're Telling Me!, which offers a more satisfying version of the golf routine than the one found here.
  • JoeytheBrit1 September 2005
    In this primitive early talkie W. C. Fields plays J. Effingham Bellweather, wanted by the authorities for eating spaghetti in public, explaining the facts of life to an Indian and other heinous crimes. Bewitched by the flirtatious wife of the detective in his hotel, Bellweather offers to display his prowess on the golf course to her with unexpected results.

    Some of the early scenes in this film look like something from a spoof of badly-made films. There are some glaring continuity errors in the opening scene, and I'm sure I could hear a wind machine in operation in one scene on the golf course. Nevertheless this is quite a funny effort from Fields, whose performance benefits dramatically from the use of sound. I especially liked the scene in which he reads a note from an aggrieved debtor in front of the receptionist to whom the note was dictated. After reading it, Fields slowly and deliberately tears the note into pieces and, as he discards it, comments wryly "silly little girl." He also does battle with a smart little girl who literally screams all her lines with gusto, and makes good use of a number of props: exploding cigarette lighters, warped golf clubs, sheets of paper, squeaky shoes. The routine on the golf course wears a little thin, but is enlivened by the presence of a strange caddy who almost manages to upstage Fields on a number of occasions.
  • This is an amusing short feature, and it holds up well for its time. You can tell at times that it is from the very early sound era, when they still did not quite have the pacing down, but W.C. Fields makes up for it with his usual skill at both sight gags and dialogue jokes. There have been few comedians as good as Fields was at getting good mileage out of a recurring line of dialogue ("keep your eye on the ball ... "), and here as "The Golf Specialist" he also gets quite a bit out of his peculiar caddie. The result is an entertaining trifle that is light on plot but that has some good laughs.
  • Even though this film suffers from staginess in its filming, and even in the acting of much of the supporting cast, THE GOLF SPECIALIST can still be fun to watch. Fields is brilliant as always, finding much humor in the simplest situations. This is more or less a filmed record of his "golf routine" in which he keeps stalling so he does not have to hit the ball and prove what a bad golfer he really is. He lets every little possible thing stand in his way. This film may be more of historical interest now, as the golf routine was put on film later in YOU'RE TELLING ME, but it still manages to remain entertaining.
  • lugonian6 June 2010
    THE GOLF SPECIALIST (RKO Radio, 1930), directed by Monte Brice, stars comedian W.C. Fields in his first sound comedy, a comic supplement of one of his famous vaudeville routines. Fields, whose career consisted that as a headliner of "The Ziegfeld Follies," with his juggling routine as one of his trademarks, failed to equal the popularity of Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton as opposed to silent film comedians. For THE GOLF SPECIALIST, a 20 minute short, it was evident that what Fields needed was sound to put over his routines, but his newfound success in feature length comedies was only a few short years away.

    The plot for THE GOLF SPECIALIST isn't much, actually. Divided into two parts, the introduction, set at a Florida resort, opens in the lobby where a flirtatious blonde (Shirley Grey) gets a man in trouble with a house detective (John Dunsmuir), who happens to be her husband. After the jealous detective twists man into a pretzel, wheeling him out of the lobby, J. Eppington Bellweather (W.C. Fields), another guest, enters the scene. Before making the acquaintance with the blonde, there's a tough looking thug looking to give him a "knuckle massage," and a screechy voiced little girl (Naomi Casey, age 5) trying to panhandle money out of him. Attracted to the blonde, Bellweather invites her out for a game of golf. The second half of the story finds Bellweather, blonde and caddy out in the golf course where the golf specialist, who repeatedly tells the girl to "keep your eye on the ball," to meet with many distractions, ranging from caddy's squeaking shoes to various passersby preventing him from ever hitting the ball out into the green before the unexpected occurs.

    Of all the comic supplements, the golf game ranks one of Fields' most famous. Performed on stage, later in the silent comedy, SO'S YOUR OLD MAN (Paramount, 1926), and again for the concluding moments of YOU'RE TELLING ME (Paramount, 1934), THE GOLF SPECIALIST simply gives indication of how the act was performed on stage. As with most early talkies, the film is quite primitive in appearance with echoing voices, cardboard backdrop in place of actual outdoor surroundings, and lack of background music with the exception of during the opening credits. Whatever the film lacks, it makes up for it with its star attraction, W.C. Fields, whose name is the only one listed in the cast. It's also interesting getting a glimpse of a younger and thinner Fields, with clip on mustache, cigarette and straw hat as opposed to a older, heavier, cigar smoking con man minus mustache that would become the better known Fields' character trait. In THE GOLF SPECIALIST, little is known of his character with the exception of a wanted poster listing him for petty crimes as passing as the Prince of Wales, eating spaghetti in public, spitting in the Gulf Stream, failing to pay installments on a straitjacket, but nothing quite evident from his introduction as con man and golf specialist in that order.

    Unseen for many years, THE GOLF SPECIALIST turned up on New York City's public television station's "Laugh Night" (WNET, Channel 13) in May of 1973 as part of an evening devoted to comedy shorts consisting of THE BLACKSMITH (1920) with Buster Keaton; Charlie Chaplin's THE CURE (1917); Harold Lloyd in HIS ROYAL SLYNESS (1919); Saturday AFTERNOON (1922) with Harry Langdon; Pearl White in AERIAL WIRE (1919); Dell Henderson in COMRADES (1911), and finally THE GOLF SPECIALIST. With the exception of the Keaton and Chaplin shorts, there were no known rebroadcasts of the others presented that night. A decade later, however, THE GOLF SPECIALIST turned up on home video along with other Fields short subjects being THE DENTIST (1932) and THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER (1933) as companion pieces, many public domain titles from various distributors of poor quality visuals that gives the impression of THE GOLF SPECIALIST being much older than its actual release date. Only The Criterion Collection VHS edition has turned up with excellent quality prints to its full collection of Fields' comedy shorts. Still rarely shown, THE GOLF SPECIALIST was one that turned up sparingly in between features of American Movie Classics (in the 1990s) and Turner Classic Movies (post 2001).

    While Fields' devotees would be categorize THE GOLF SPECIALIST as a good comedy with full quota of laughs (myself included), others might find this tee off simply in the rough. Fore!!! (***).
  • Even though the subject matter of two of W. C. Fields' short are the same, the results are quite a bit different. Despite the titles, both THE GOLF SPECIALIST and THE DENTIST involve golfing hi-jinx, though THE GOLF SPECIALIST is all obviously filmed in a sound stage instead of outdoors and it tended to have far fewer laughs--instead relying on Fields muttering to himself much of the time or watching the annoying antics of the world's stupidest caddy. It seems pretty obvious that this short is based on one of Fields' Vaudeville routines in the way it's constructed PLUS Fields is wearing the bushy black mustache he often wore on stage. Not particularly great, but an interesting historical curio, as it is Fields' first sound film.
  • An early W. C. Fields gem, this is very well done. One funny line and gag after another. The little girl in the lobby, played by Shirley Grey, is precious. Throughout the golf course scene the caddy, played by Al Wood, is a match for Fields talents and upstages him constantly. Light and whimsical is how I'd brand this one. Worth a watch if you're a W. C. Fields fan, just like early talkies, or enjoy sight gags and slap stick comedy. Given production standards of the day this film is close, I think, to a marvel. Much better than most of what was churned out at the time, this is undoubtedly Fields' best early work, and compares very well to the slicker production that came years latter.
  • It never went anywhere other than annoying. Fields isn't as loud but reminds me of Rodney Dangerfield who "tried" to be funny but was more annoying and obnoxious than anything.
  • W.C. Fields brightened up anything he was a part of. this twenty minute shortie is like a vaudeville bit. The house detective's wife flirts with the paying guests, and then waits for hubby to come along and chase him off. One of the hotel guests is J. Effington Bellweather (Fields). even his name is a naughty joke. wearing his typical straw hat, he apparently owes someone a ton of money, and tries to stay one step ahead. the women and girls in this bit all screech and scream... yeegods. then Fields goes into his physical comedy... slapstick humor with things sticking to shoes, shoes that squeak, and accidentally hitting things with a club. Gotta say, this is one of the more annoying bits by Fields... i usually LOVE his antics, but with the yelling, screaming, and un-inspired bits, can't rate this one as high as I usually do for Fields. Although the list of crimes he has committed is pretty funny, as the camera pans down the list. the opening music and picture are pretty messed up, since the tape is so old, but it clears up after a few minutes. this one is just SO-SO. Extra interesting as a bit of W.C. Fields' history, but some of the slapstick humor is a pretty dated at this point in time.
  • WC Fields is always enjoyable, but this is a lesser short. The first half in the lobby is hilarious-- loved the bit with the bratty kid and the jealous husband's turning a perceived rival into a ball. However, the bit on the green becomes monotonous, despite some good one-liners.
  • This is an early Fields treasure. While it lacked any sort of finish, it has moments that are very funny. We are first introduced to an attractive but lunkheaded woman who goes after every man she sees. She ends up on the links with Fields and we get a series of funny moments. But what has always cracked me up is the guy who plays the caddy, with his giant hat and his total cluelessness. What we have here is one pratfall after another. We must ask, "Will he ever hit the ball?"
  • Warning: Spoilers
    W.C. Fields stars in "The Golf Specialist", a short that is overall slow and weak. The best thing about it is the trademark pompous personality of Mr. Fields himself, and there are a few moments of true levity, but that's not enough to save the picture. Fields plays a cheap chiseler named J. Effingham Bellweather, a man wanted for a series of ridiculous crimes, one of which is not realizing that the house dick at the golf resort where he stays is an insanely jealous husband.

    Here are those few funny moments I had mentioned: Mr. Bellweather thinks a stuffed toy dog urinated on him; a golf club whacks Mr. Bellweather in the ass; and although I cannot explain why, there is just something funny about how Bellweather removes his hat as he inspects a golf club that a woman accidentally stepped on and broke.

    "The Golf Specialist" can be slow and boring, particularly with the protracted golfing scene, but I somehow never get tired of hearing Mr. Bellweather reminding everyone to stand clear and keep their eyes on the ball.
  • Marta20 August 2000
    W.C. Fields is great as he tries to teach the game of golf to the flirtatious wife of a hotel detective. His caddy during the lesson is nearly as funny as W. C., wearing a hat bigger than he is; this hat figures in most of the comedy bits in this short and becomes a character on its own. The lazy caddy stands inert for the majority of the film, but still manages to take the spotlight away from W.C. at odd moments.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The Golf Specialist" is a black-and-white comedy short film and this one was made in 1930, which means it had its 85th anniversary last year. The sound era had already begun and Fields was one of the biggest stars from the early days of sound, at least in America. As for short films, Laurel & Hardy were also huge back then and not much later, the Three Stooges took over. Fields certainly is not as prolific in terms of short movies as the ones I just mentioned. I think he has decent comedic talent, but the writing in here and the jokes in particular have not really aged that well at all. It feels tough to me to appreciate these 20 minutes. The first half is a bit of an introduction, but then the action switches to the golf course and stays there until the very end. I myself am glad this was over fairly quickly as I was not really well-entertained. Quite a shame as I am sure Fields is better than this.
  • Kieran_Kenney18 June 2003
    Badly made and utterly nonsensical. Fields is a poor comedian who does nothing but mumble to himself and allow other characters to obstruct his path in ways that only draw the stories of his films more painfully. That's all I will say. That and this: The only decent part was when the husband is beating on that guy and the wife is calmly powdering her nose, routinely saying "Help... Police... Murder... (ect.)". That was the highlight.
  • This is the first short of WC Fields I have seen, mainly because he and Chaplin are often named in one sentence when talked about early greats in movie history. But The Golf Specialist can't match Chaplin's better shorts, as it just isn't as fast-paced as most of Charlies work is. The Golf specialist contains mainly out of 2 scenes, one in the hotel lobby, where a woman tries to flirt with 'everything wearing trousers' (or something like that), and finally hooks up with Fields. This is the least bit of the movie. Then the 'action' shifts to the golf course, where Fields tries to explain what the great sport is all about (and says 'Stand clear, keep your eyes on the ball' about 100 times...). His caddy in this part is particularly funny, look out for him! It turns out at the end that Fields is a psychiatric patient, who fled the institute, and his 'capturing' scene is very amusing, with the bird shot out of the sky. Some good comedy, but not as good as I thought it would be, but I'll give him another go. 6/10
  • "The Golf Specialist" has some good moments but the whole thing looks decidedly amateurish in the way it is filmed. The pace is incredibly slow and at a film of 20 minutes can't afford to suffer from a poor story. There is no location footage of the actors which might have helped to give "The Golf Specialist" a more expansive look. The golf scene wasn't too bad once it began but the two people in the scene with Fields have absolutely nothing to do. The lack of direction doesn't help either. This short film had promise and W.C Fields has made better ones than this.
  • The Golf Specialist was W.C. Fields's sound motion picture debut and he's cast as a small time con man who is currently in the midst of staying at a hotel where he's got no intention of paying the bill. He would have the house detective on his case, but instead he's got the man's wife in the person of Shirley Grey flirting with him as she does with all the other guests at the hotel. Her husband keeps real busy punching out all the guys who are paying attention to his wife.

    But Fields doesn't know that and they go on a golf date with a brain dead caddy played by Al Wood. Wood is almost as funny as Fields in his total blank expression to all the havoc around him, a lot of which he causes for Fields. All the while Fields is trying to score with Grey as well as hit the ball.

    Right after this film Fields went to Warner Brothers for his first sound feature film, Her Majesty Love and then signed a long term contract with Paramount. The Golf Specialist is not the best of his work, but Fields fans will appreciate it.