The Dentist

Watch The Dentist

  • Passed
  • 1932
  • 22 min
  • 6.8  (1,741)

"The Dentist" is a pre-Code comedy short film from 1932, which runs for a brisk 21 minutes and showcases the unique comedic talent of W.C. Fields. This film directs the viewers into the typically mundane world of dentistry, but as soon as W.C. Fields takes the lead, nothing remains mundane. Fields play an irascible dentist who combines a rough bedside manner with a distinct lack of patience for his patients, colleagues, and family, turning an ordinary day into a series of mishaps and outrageous situations.

The movie commences with the morning routine of the eponymous dentist, Dr. Benton, giving the audience a glimpse of the era's domestic life and setting up Fields' character. Dr. Benton's calm morning belies the chaos that will ensue once he steps into his professional role. The film then follows Dr. Benton as he interacts with a series of patients at his dental practice, each one presenting a unique, comedic challenge.

Marjorie Kane plays Miss Peppitone, a woman who is one of Dr. Benton's misfortunate patients. With her presence, the viewers can expect an unforgettable dental appointment that brings both awkwardness and hilarity to a frenzy. Her interaction with Fields' character is filled with slapstick humor and comedic timing that tilts more towards cringe-inducing situations than a gentle poking of fun, a hallmark of comedies from the early sound era.

Arnold Gray appears as Arthur, the young man who is involved in Dr. Benton's personal life. His role, although secondary to the comedic exploits of Fields, complements the turbulent encounter between Dr. Benton and his clientele, and contributes to the anarchic spirit of this short comedy.

As one could expect from a W.C. Fields vehicle, his portrayal of a dentist is anything but typical. Dr. Benton is rough and ready, lacking any sense of delicacy or modern-day professionalism. His approach to dental care is rudimentary and wildly inappropriate by today's standards, often relying on brute force rather than finesse. This, naturally, sets the stage for a cavalcade of physical gags and verbal jousts that were Fields' trademarks.

In the film, Dr. Benton seems to take perverse delight in the discomfort of his patients, making for squirm-inducing scenes that are played for laughs. This uncomfortable humor extends to his encounters with a child patient and a woman with a pronounced gag reflex, among others. Each interaction is an exercise in comedy at the expense of both patient and dentist, with Fields expertly walking the line between humor and horror.

One of the crucial elements and comedic high points of "The Dentist" is a notorious golfing scene which creatively intertwines Dr. Benton's personal hobby with his professional escapades. This sequence showcases W.C. Fields' well-known personal love for the game of golf and injects his own ineptitude at the sport for comedic effect. The physical comedy that unfolds on the golf course is a perfect demonstration of Fields' ability to turn even the most genteel activities into a comedy of errors.

The humor in "The Dentist" is a mix of slapstick, physical comedy, and Fields' signature wit and timing. Tightly-packed within its short running time, the film is filled with action and rapid-fire dialogue, and Fields often uses his physicality to awkward effect, whether it is wrestling with a patient or reacting to the chaos around him. Fields, with his bulbous nose and blustery demeanor, is the epitome of a man in a continual battle with his circumstances.

What sets "The Dentist" apart from other comedies of the time is its willingness to push boundaries. Given that it was made before the enforcement of the Hays Code, there is a surprising level of innuendo and suggestive content, which might seem unexpected to those accustomed to the more sanitized films that would follow in the late 1930s and 1940s.

The film is also a testament to the end of one era and the beginning of another in Hollywood. "The Dentist" comes from an age where sound in cinema was still a relatively new innovation and filmmakers were experimenting with how it could be used to enhance the comedic effect. The movie doesn't rely on a musical score or soundtrack to punctuate the humor; instead, it uses sound effects, dialogue, and the natural cacophony of the scenarios to underscore the laughs.

Overall, "The Dentist" is emblematic of W.C. Fields' distinctive form of comedy.melding farce, slapstick and a touch of the grotesque. Its place in early cinematic history is solidified by Fields' unique perspective and performance, offering a fascinating glimpse into the permissiveness and creativity of that era in Hollywood. Today, "The Dentist" stands as a brief but biting piece of escapism that still has the ability to elicit chuckles, wincing, and appreciation for one of the classic figures of American humor.

The Dentist is a 1932 comedy with a runtime of 22 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.8.

The Dentist
Where to Watch The Dentist
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    22 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.8  (1,741)