18 February 2008 | paul_etcheverry
Written for W.C. Fields, stars Lloyd Hamilton
Since there is precious little Lloyd Hamilton available to see, 'Too Many Highballs' remains must viewing for classic comedy buffs, even though it seems to largely waste this original and idiosyncratic comic talent. It has its moments but pretty much exemplifies what happens when you plug a comedian into a film that was tailor-made, start-to-finish, for an entirely different comic and characterization.
'Too Many Highballs' was originally slated to be the fifth W.C. Fields short for Mack Sennett, but, after the producer and Fields clashed after the production of 'The Fatal Glass Of Beer', the project was given to Hamilton. The script comes across as a vehicle for the wonderfully misanthropic anti-protagonist of The Barber Shop and The Dentist. Fields and co-writer Clyde Bruckman remade the storyline - of a beleaguered family man who tells a whopper so he can ditch work and go to the fights - two years later in the Paramount feature The Man On The Flying Trapeze.
Hamilton was obviously a very funny and skilled comedian, but, like Fields, needed to have scripts tailored specifically to his character; perhaps the Sennett Studio had to grind out those two-reelers too fast to rewrite this one to fit Hamilton's courtly, world-weary, Zero Mostel-like persona. So 'Too Many Highballs' is a bit of an uneasy coda to Lloyd Hamilton's near 20 year career.