W. C. Fields

From Academic Kids

Missing image
W.C. Fields
Missing image
W. C. Fields

W. C. Fields (January 29, 1880December 25, 1946) was an American comedian and actor. Fields created one of the great American comic personas of the first half of the 20th century—a misanthrope who teetered on the edge of buffoonery but never quite fell in, an egotist blind to his own failings, a charming drunk, and a man who hated children, dogs and women, unless they were the wrong sort of women. ("I'm very fond of children... girl children, around 18 or 20!")



Born William Claude Dukenfield, Fields ran away from home at age 11 and entered vaudeville. By age 21 he was traveling as a comedy juggling act, becoming a headliner in both North America and Europe. In 1906 he made his Broadway debut in the musical comedy The Ham Tree, signing with impresario Florenz Ziegfeld.

Like many vaudevillians, Fields worked in silent films and one-reelers, but he first hit big theatrical fame in 1923 in the Broadway musical Poppy, where he perfected his persona as an oily, failed confidence man. Fields later appeared in talking feature films and short subjects, including the 1934 classic It's a Gift, which included a version of his stage sketch of trying to sleep on the back porch as a result of nagging family and being bedeviled by noisy neighbors and traveling salesmen. ("You're drunk!" "Yeh, and you're crazy! But I'll be sober tomorrow, and you'll be crazy for the rest of your life!")

Fields had an affection for unlikely names and many of his characters bore them. As he was often also a writer on his films, the credits often include quite unusual names substituting for his own, such as "Mahatma Kane Jeeves" or "Otis Cribblecoblis". He also used the ordinary-sounding "Charles Bogle" several times.

He was an expert juggler, and this staple of his vaudeville act found its way into small and tantalizing segments of his movies from time to time. His vaudeville act also included a routine with a pool table, so the pool table also made many appearances in his films over the years. In somewhat of a parallel to Groucho Marx's famous greasepaint mustache, Fields wore a scruffy looking clip-on mustache in virtually all of his silent films, finally discarding it once talkies began.

In his films he often played hustlers such as carnival barkers and card sharps, spinning yarns and distracting his marks, as with this gem from Mississippi: "Whilst traveling through the Andes Mountains, we lost our corkscrew. Had to live on food and water for several days!"

He was a lifelong fan of author Charles Dickens, and achieved one of his career ambitions by playing the character Mr. Micawber, in MGM's David Copperfield, directed by George Cukor, in 1935. In 1936, Fields recreated his signature stage role in Poppy for Paramount Studios wherein Richard Cromwell, played the suitor of Fields' daughter, Rochelle Hudson. ("If we should ever separate, my little plum, I want to give you just one bit of fatherly advice." "Yes, Pop?" "Never give a sucker an even break!"). He had previously transferred his famous role onto the screen a decade earlier in Sally of the Sawdust (1925) directed by the legendary D.W. Griffith (whose career was in a slump). The previous effort at bringing Poppy to the screen was not a success.

Fields's ego sometimes got in the way of important roles. He turned down the role of the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz fearing the role would be "too small".

Illness, worsened by his heavy drinking, stopped Fields' film work for a time, but he made a comeback trading insults with Edgar Bergen's dummy Charlie McCarthy on radio in 1938. ("Is it true your father was a gate-leg table?" "If it is, your father was under it!"). This so-called "rivalry" between the two carried onto film in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939). In 1940 he made My Little Chickadee with Mae West, as well as The Bank Dick, which perhaps might be his most well-known film ("Was I in here last night, and did I spend a $20 bill?" "Yeh!" "Boy, is that a load off my mind... I thought I'd lost it!").

In a final irony, W. C. Fields died in 1946 of a stomach hemorrhage on the holiday he claimed to despise: Christmas Day.

He was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California. There have been stories that he wanted his grave marker to read, "On the whole, I would rather be in Philadelphia", his home town, and similar to a line he used in My Little Chickadee, "I'd like to see Paris before I die... Philadelphia would do!" This rumor has also been twisted into "I would rather be HERE than in Philadelphia." Whatever his wishes might have been, his internment marker merely has his name, and birth and death years.

His mistress Carlotta Monti is among several people who have chronicled Field's life, in her book, W.C. Fields and Me. The book was made into a film of the same name in 1976.


Fields' face, complete with bulbous nose, rotund body and blustery, nasal voice have often been caricatured . A few examples:

  • Several contemporary cartoons contained Fields characterizations. [1] (http://members.aol.com/EOCostello/f.html)
  • The comic strip The Wizard of Id features an attorney called "Larsen E. Pettifogger", who is an obvious parody of Fields and even borrows from the character name "Larsen E. Whipsnade" that Fields used in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.
  • After the Frito-Lay organization was pressured to pull their Mexican stereotyped character called "The Frito Bandito" in the late 60s, they substituted a Fields lookalike called "W.C. Fritos".
  • Fields was easy to mimic. For example, Ed McMahon could do a perfect Fields, and invoked it on The Tonight Show from time to time.



External link


eo:W.C. FIELDS fr:W. C. Fields it:W.C. Fields nl:W.C. Fields


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools