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Creator / W. C. Fields

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"On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." note 

"Any man who hates dogs and babies can't be all bad."
Leo Rosten on W. C. Fields

William Claude Dukenfield, aka W. C. Fields (January 29, 1880 December 25, 1946), was an American comedian, actor, juggler, and writer, most famous during the 1930s and '40s. He made several classic comedy films, but was also well known for his radio appearances opposite Edgar Bergen's dummy Charlie McCarthy.

Fields was best known for his comic persona as a misanthropic alcoholic who generally disliked dogs, women and children, an image that was somewhat Truth in Television. His films have been praised for their clever jokes and anti-sentimental comedy, which have made him a cult favorite even to this day. John Cleese has pointed out how Fields was doing Pythonesque humor long before Monty Python. And The Bank Dick (1940), in particular, has been Vindicated by History as one of the best comedy films of all time.

Being the funny comedian he was, Fields is endlessly quotable. Not all of it is safe for work, though.

Fields spent the last two years of his life in a sanitorium, suffering from failing memory and eyesight, a side effect of his alcoholism. He died on Christmas Day of 1946 from a massive gastric hemorrhage. He was 66 years old.

Fields is also present on the album cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.

W.C. Fields films on TV Tropes:

Tropes associated with W.C. Fields:

  • The Alcoholic: A big part of his comedic persona, and sadly Truth in Television. The last six years of his life don't feature very many performances because Fields was too busy drinking himself to death.
    "Whilst traveling through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew. Had to live on food and water for several days." [My Little Chickadee, 1940]
  • Butt-Monkey: Mostly Fields, though everybody gets his or her comeuppance.
  • Child Hater: Considering how ill behaved the kids in those movies were, who couldn't but be on his side? This came with a bit of exaggeration from real life however, where he was a doting grandfather and entertained some of his friends' children.
  • Dark Comedy: In It's a Gift, Fields' character has a deaf and blind man visit his store. The customer smashes up everything while Fields desperately tries to tell him to sit down and don't move!
  • Death by Irony: Fields died on his least favorite day of the year: Christmas. He seemed cheerful enough, though: a nurse came in to open the curtains, he smiled at her, put a "shh" finger to his lips, and died.
  • Defiant to the End: In his last days, one of his friends was surprised to discover him reading the Bible, as he'd always had disdain for religion. Fields replied that he was looking for loopholes.
    • Known for knocking Philadelphia and hating kids, while on his deathbed he allegedly asked his banker "Do I have enough money to buy a bicycle for every child in Philadelphia?" The banker said "Yes, easily!" and Fields said "...well, fuck 'em!"
  • Disappeared Dad: He separated from his wife and the mother of his first child, vaudeville actress Hattie Hughes, in 1907. But they never formally divorced. And also contra to his Child Hater characterization, he sent her a weekly stipend for the rest of his life. He also financially supported a second child he fathered out of wedlock with another vaudeville actress, Bessie Poole, until he turned 19, despite officially renouncing his paternity.
  • The Grinch: He despised Christmas.
  • Removable Steering Wheel: In The Bank Dick, when asked by the thug in the back seat to give him the wheel, Egbert Souse (Fields) matter-of-factly pulled it off the steering column and gave it to him. This sequence paid homage to the Mack Sennett/Keystone Kops and Hal Roach/Our Gang comedies of the 1920s and 1930s. Model T Fords were generally used for these comic chases.
  • Running Gag: Perhaps the most famous ever: Whenever his character goes outside or inside in The Fatal Glass of Beer, which takes place during a snowstorm in the Canadian far north, he pauses in the door and says with great pathos: "And it ain't a fit night out ... for man nor beast." And EVERY TIME he gets a bucket of snow thrown in his face.
  • Smoking Is Cool: In The Bank Dick, after being incorrectly identified as a hero in his small town, Fields entertains some kids with some cigarette tricks. He sends them off, saying "I'll teach you when you're older! Didn't take it up myself 'til I was nine..."
  • Visual Innuendo: A staggering moment in The Dentist where Fields, the dentist, is performing a difficult tooth extraction from an attractive woman. He winds up between her knees humping away trying to extract the tooth, as her high-heeled shoes point at the camera while she moans (with pain). And if that weren't enough, he eventually pulls her out of the chair, and they go staggering around the office with her legs wrapped around his waist. Eventually he pulls the tooth, whereupon the woman slides to the floor in a heap. Even in The Pre-Code Era, that was really pushing it.
  • Volleying Insults: Fields revived his career in the late 1930s with his radio feud with Edgar Bergen's Charlie McCarthy character. McCarthy mocked Fields' nose and penchant for drinking, while Fields mocked McCarthy's status as a wooden dummy.
    Fields: Isn't it true that your grandfather was a mahogany table?
    Charlie: You ought to know — your grandfather was passed out under him!
  • Would Hurt a Child: He kicks an infant in It's a Gift.