The Bank Dick

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The Bank Dick (released as The Bank Detective in the United Kingdom) is a 1940 comedy film. (At the time, dick was common USA slang for detective.) W. C. Fields plays a character named Egbert Sousé who trips a bank robber and ends up a security guard as a result. The character is a drunk who must repeatedly remind people in exasperation that his name is pronounced "Sousé – accent grave [sic] over the 'e'!", because people keep calling him "Souse" (slang for drunkard). In addition to bank and family scenes, it features Fields pretending to be a film director and ends in a chaotic car chase. The Bank Dick is considered a classic of his work, incorporating his usual persona as a drunken henpecked husband with a shrewish wife, disapproving mother-in-law, and savage children.

The film was written by Fields, using the alias Mahatma Kane Jeeves (derived from the Broadway drawing-room comedy cliche, "My hat, my cane, Jeeves!"), and directed by Edward F. Cline. Shemp Howard, one of the Three Stooges, plays a bartender.

In 1992, The Bank Dick was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".



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Fields by now was considerably heavier than in his henpecked-husband pictures of just five or six years earlier, and his voice suggests that he may have been suffering from a cold during the film's production. Nonetheless, the film contains some well-known scenes and dialogue:

  • The family frequently mentions Egbert's smoking while upstairs in his room, a fact which he tries to hide. In one scene, Egbert comes downstairs and when his family mentions his smoking, he uses a quick movement of his lips to "fold" the still-burning cigarette into his mouth so that he can walk out unmolested.
  • A couple of times in the "Black Pussy Cat Cafe", the town saloon, Egbert says to a capped bottle of whiskey, "Take off your hat in the presence of a gentleman."
  • Egbert entertains a group of children by taking a drag from a cigarette, placing it in his ear, and exhaling multiple puffs of smoke, making it seem as though he is using his ear to inhale the smoke. He cautions them that smoking is an adult activity, and adds, "I didn't take up smoking until I was nine."
  • Egbert: "Was I in here last night, and did I spend a 20 dollar bill?"

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