The Dentist (1932)

Before the first version of Little Shop of Horrors with Jack Nicholson as the masochistic patient of a dentist, and long before the remake with Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist (Steve also plays a dentist in the recent dark comedy Novocaine), W.C. Fields starred in this one. One of five 2-reel comedies (a reel is about eight minutes), "The Great Movie Shorts" by Leonard Maltin says this little 3-act play ends with a dentist office sequence that was so "outrageous" when released 12-9-32, it was heavily censored when the infamous MPAA Hollywood Production Code was instituted in 1933.

W.C. Fields "As Fields is talking to a pal in his office, a female patient is moaning outside. The nurse looks worried, but Fields continues to chat, unconcerned ... When his nurse tries to call his attention to it, he mutters, "Ah, the hell with her!"

"Later, while trying to extract a tooth from the mouth of another woman, he pulls her completely out of the chair, her legs straddling him (around his waist) and resting in his pockets! When he drills her tooth (the machine makes a loud buzz-saw sound), her entire body gyrates with what is apparently excruciating pain. Afterward he asks amiably, "Now that didn't hurt, did it?"

"The Fields character in The Dentist is completely without redeeming qualities, and it is the shock of realizing this as much as anything else that makes the short unusually funny."

His next shorts were the equally hilarious "Fatal Glass Of Beer" (set in Alaska), and "The Pharmacist" (with Fields as the victim of rude, uncaring customers). His final short, "The Barber Shop" (1933) was released after the Code was fully instituted, making it his weakest and "most conventional," though he did sneak one dark joke past the MPAA censors:
A dog is waiting eagerly next to the barber chair and Fields says it's because he once cut off a customer's ear, and the hungry dog is hoping for another.

Director Edward Bernds showed Leonard Maltin a script from a comedy 2-reeler of the period, "Honeymoon Blues," with notes from the MPAA censor written on it:
In scene 6, Hugh (a man being married by a Justice of the Peace), embarrassed at kissing his bride, absentmindedly kisses the best man on the cheek as the best man is kissing the bride. Says the MPAA, "We regard it as very questionable that Hugh actually kisses the man on the cheek. We think it would be well if he stopped just short of kissing this man.

In scene 8, Hugh's boss corners him for the special assignment (to retrieve some love letters written to a celebrity client from her boyfriend). "You know who J.P. Mott is?" asks the boss. "The Banker?" says Hugh. "Right. He's in a jam with his girlfriend..."
The MPAA suggests, "It might be well to change "banker" to something else, possibly "big businessman."

In scene 12, the boss gives the newlywed his instructions; he must get those letters immediately. "Me? Boss! Not tonight! What about my wife?"
"Don't bother me with trifles," snaps the boss.
"Trifles! Mr. Wright, I - I hate to say this, but I'm not leaving this building tonight!" The MPAA, about Hugh's speech says, "Not tonight!" we suggest that this either be deleted or possibly changed to "not now." In his next speech, "I'm not leaving this building tonight," we request that the underscored word be dropped."

"Here and elsewhere please minimize the drinking and showing of drinks," and "Care should be exercised as to these kisses of Fifi and Hugh that they be not lustful, passionate, or open-mouthed. This same caution applies on page 25 where Bruno kisses Betty Lou, and scenes 73 & 75."

In the last scene, Hugh finally gets everything straightened out for his boss and has his wedding night. His wife says, "This is Heaven - just you and I." As she turns to her new husband, she finds that Hugh, exhausted, is fast asleep. With a sigh, she starts playing solitaire as the film fades out. Says the MPAA, "The greatest care must be exercised as to this concluding scene ... There must be no suggestion of sex frustration about her action at this point."
[apparently she just really likes card games]
There was also a radio episode of Lights Out titled "The Dentist," in which a dentist (Hal Peary) recognizes a new patient as the man who ran off with his wife, as he gets out his drill (Lights Out was not known for happy endings).

Although "The Great Movie Shorts" is out of print, other books by Leonard Maltin are available

Why not try some Novocaine

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W.C. Fields photo above courtesy MonsterVision Acne Night host segment interview for Motel Hell.

When W.C. Fields was dying, a friend was surprised to find the unbeliever reading the Bible. Fields said he was "looking for loopholes."

Bill Laidlaw. All Rights Reserved. That's my 2 worth