It's the Old Army Game

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It's the Old Army Game
It's the Old Army Game poster.jpg
Directed byEddie Sutherland
Written byThomas J. Geraghty (scenario)
J. Clarkson Miller (scenario)
Story byJoseph P. McEvoy
William LeBaron
Based onThe Comic Supplement
by Joseph P. McEvoy
Produced byAdolph Zukor
Jesse L. Lasky
William LeBaron (associate producer)
StarringW. C. Fields
Louise Brooks
CinematographyAlvin Wyckoff
Edited byThomas J. Geraghty
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • May 24, 1926 (1926-05-24) (US)
Running time
70 mins.
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)
It's the Old Army Game 1925 advertisement

It's the Old Army Game is a 1926 American silent comedy film starring W. C. Fields and Louise Brooks. The film was directed by Eddie Sutherland and co-stars Sutherland's aunt, the stage actress Blanche Ring in one of her few silent film appearances. The film is based on the revue The Comic Supplement by Joseph P. McEvoy and Fields, and included several skits from Fields' stage plays.[1] The "army game" in the title is in reference to a shell game, a con-trick which Fields’ character observes being played. "It's the old army game," he says, sagely.

Large sections of the film, including the "picnic" and "sleeping on the porch" scenes; were incorporated into Fields' classic talkie film It's a Gift (1934)


Elmer Prettywillie (Fields) is a small town druggist/general store owner whose customers are eccentric at best and rude and demanding at worst. They include a man who wants "a nice, clean two-cent stamp" from the center of a massive sheet of them.

Fields' sole joy is his pretty clerk (Brooks), but not her homely maiden aunt (Ring), who has an unrequited crush on him. Attempting to sleep on an outdoor back porch, Fields is disturbed by a series of noisy peddlers, including a surly ice man who insists Fields heft his own heavy, rapidly melting block of ice. A neighbor then insists Fields watch her bratty baby; whom Fields cheerfully attempts to smother to stop its crying. The baby eventually gets hold of a large mallet and knows exactly what to do with it. Fields ends up destroying the back porch when he accidentally discharges a shotgun.

Later, Fields and family stage a picnic on the front lawn of a private estate, and order the owner of the house to clean up their unholy, paper-strewn mess.

Real estate hustler George Parker (Gaxton) arrives in town and becomes smitten with Brooks. Brooks talks Fields into letting Gaxton sell real estate out of the store. When New York City police arrive and take Gaxton away in connection with a previous "bad deal", Fields is left to face the wrath of the investors.

Fields makes a quick trip to New York City, hoping to locate Gaxton. Not used to city traffic, he drives the wrong way on a one-way street and has various parts of his car sheared off. He hires a mule to pull the car. The mule refuses to budge. Fields tries to give the mule a hot foot,and only succeeds in burning up what's left of the car.

Returning home in defeat, Fields gives himself up at the police station, but he learns a developer has re-bought the lots at a high price, enriching the town and making him a hero. When the maiden aunt arrives, Fields locks her in a cell and makes a hasty retreat. Brooks and Gaxton, meanwhile, have eloped.



The film was shot mainly at Paramount's Astoria Studios facility in Astoria, Queens and in Manhattan, and is preserved complete in the Library of Congress.[2][3][4] A few outdoor scenes were filmed in Ocala, Florida and Palm Beach, Florida.[5]

A 2018 DVD release, 75 minutes long, contains a newly written organ music score played by noted silent film restorist Ben Model.


  1. ^ Louvish, Simon (1997). Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W. C. Fields. New York: W. W. Norton. pp. 244, 273. ISBN 0-393-04127-1.
  2. ^ It's the Old Army Game at
  3. ^ The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films:1921-30 by The American Film Institute, c. 1971
  4. ^ Catalog of Holdings, The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artist Collection at The Library of Congress page 91 by The American Film Institute, c.1978
  5. ^ Curtis, James (2003). W.C. Fields: A Biography. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 185. ISBN 0-375-40217-9.

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