Ma and Pa Snavely live in a wooden hut in the Yukon. Many years before, their son Chester left for the big city and became involved in crime after “the fatal glass of beer”. He returns home after getting out of prison, and promises his father not to tell his Mother what he really did. He makes the same promise to his Mother. They both chase him out of the house.
Pa Snavely, as portrayed by Fields, serenades a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer with “The Fatal Glass of Beer”, a mournful song detailing the evils of foul drink and bad companions in the big city. A zither accompaniment recorded for the film seldom matches the vocal, because Fields subtly changes keys when the zither does not, resulting in a humorously off-key effect.
Fields emphasizes the stagey satire by striking various poses and being overly theatrical with the dialogue. The most famous gag has Fields opening the cabin door periodically and exclaiming, “And it ain’t a fit night out for man or beast!”, with some obviously fake snow thrown into his face a moment later. He would reprise that gag during the “play-within-the-play” in The Old Fashioned Way (1934).