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Pool Sharks (also sometimes known as The Pool Shark) is a 1915 silent short film. The film is notable for being the film acting and writing debut of W. C. Fields, and also features an early stop-motion animation scene, during a game of pool.

Plot summary

Following a standard style of the era, the film is a romantic slapstick comedy short. Fields and his rival (played by Bud Ross) vie over the affections of a woman. When their antics get out of hand at a picnic, it is decided that they should play a game of pool. Both of them are pool sharks, and after the game turns into a farce, a fight ensues. Fields throws a ball at his rival, who ducks. The ball flies through the window and breaks a goldfish bowl, hanging over the woman they are fighting over, soaking her and leaving goldfish in her hair. She storms into the pool hall and rejects both men.



Fields helped make this film in New York Citymarker, taking time off from the Ziegfeld Follies, as publicity for the films pointed out. Vaudeville was Fields' primary vocation, and it would be nine years before he made his next known film, the 1924 film Janice Meredith

Fields wore his obviously fake clip-on moustache in this film, as he did in all of his silent films. This film is different to those who know Fields' character from his later films, with Fields wearing a fake moustache and acting more like Charlie Chaplin than his later, well-known personality from sound comedies. However, during one moment in the film during the picnic scene, Field's character does dump a small child out of a chair so that he can steal it to get closer to the women he is chasing after.


The animators hands being seen in a poorly edited sequence in the Billiards scene
Fields was an expert juggler. As with his early films, Pool Sharks was intended to highlight a pool ball juggling act that featured in the actor's vaudeville show. In the final film, however, there is only a brief shot of Fields juggling several billiard balls, as his act was largely replaced with several poorly edited stop motion sequences depicting impossible shots, such as the balls jumping off the table and re-racking themselves on the wall. Though innovative for the time, they are poorly animated, with obvious edits, and the animator's hand can actually be seen moving the balls along in one of the frames.


Today, Pool Sharks is best remembered as Fields' first film effort. Film historian William K. Everson critiques the film as an "auspicious debut", with Fields' routines and pacing already finely honed. It was one of two short films Fields made for a company called Gaumont, distributed by Mutual. He and Ross made another short around the same time, His Lordship's Dilemma.


  • The Films of W.C. Fields, by Donald Deschner, The Citadel Press, New York, 1966.
  • The Art of W.C. Fields, by William K. Everson, Bonanza Books, New York, 1967.

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