W. C. Fields
|W. C. Fields|
W. C. Fields, 1938
|Born||William Claude Dukenfield
January 29, 1880
Darby, Pennsylvania, US
|Died||December 25, 1946
Pasadena, California, US
|Cause of death||Stomach hemorrhage|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California|
|Other names||Charles Bogle
Mahatma Kane Jeeves
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, juggler, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Harriet Hughes (m. 1900–46) (his death) 1 child|
|Partner(s)||Bessie Poole (girlfriend) 1 child
Carlotta Monti (girlfriend)
|Children||William Claude Fields, Jr.
William Claude Dukenfield (January 29, 1880 – December 25, 1946), better known as W. C. Fields, was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer. Fields' comic persona was a misanthropic and hard-drinking egotist, who remained a sympathetic character despite his snarling contempt for dogs and children.
His career in show business began in vaudeville, where he attained international success as a silent juggler. He gradually incorporated comedy into his act, and was a featured comedian in the Ziegfeld Follies for several years. He became a star in the Broadway musical comedy Poppy (1923), in which he played a colorful small-time con man. His subsequent stage and film roles were often similar scoundrels, or else henpecked everyman characters.
Among his recognizable trademarks were his raspy drawl and grandiloquent vocabulary. The characterization he portrayed in films and on radio was so strong it was generally identified with Fields himself. It was maintained by the publicity departments at Fields' studios (Paramount and Universal) and was further established by Robert Lewis Taylor's biography, W.C. Fields, His Follies and Fortunes (1949). Beginning in 1973, with the publication of Fields' letters, photos, and personal notes in grandson Ronald Fields' book W.C. Fields by Himself, it was shown that Fields was married (and subsequently estranged from his wife), and financially supported their son and loved his grandchildren.
- 1 Early years
- 2 Entry into vaudeville
- 3 Broadway
- 4 Films
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Illness and career sideline
- 7 Return to films
- 8 Final years
- 9 Death
- 10 Comic persona and style
- 11 Unrealized film projects
- 12 Influence and legacy
- 13 Filmography
- 14 References
- 15 Further reading
- 16 External links
Fields was born William Claude Dukenfield in Darby, Pennsylvania, the oldest child of a working-class family. His father, James Lydon Dukenfield (1840–1913), was from an English family that emigrated to America from Sheffield, England in 1854. James Dukenfield served in Company M of the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment in the American Civil War and was wounded in 1863. Fields' mother, Kate Spangler Felton (1854–1925), was a Protestant of British ancestry. The 1876 Philadelphia City Directory lists James Dukenfield as a clerk. After marrying, he worked as an independent produce merchant and a part-time hotel-keeper.
Claude Dukenfield (as he was known) had a volatile relationship with his short-tempered father. He ran away from home repeatedly, beginning at the age of nine, often to stay with his grandmother or an uncle. His education was sporadic, and did not progress beyond grade school. At age twelve he worked with his father selling produce from a wagon, until the two had a fight that resulted in Fields running away once again. In 1893 he worked briefly at the Strawbridge and Clothier department store, and in an oyster house.
Fields later embellished stories of his childhood, depicting himself as a runaway who lived by his wits on the streets of Philadelphia from an early age, but his home life seems to have been reasonably happy. He had already discovered in himself a facility for juggling, and a performance he witnessed at a local theater inspired him to dedicate substantial time to perfecting his juggling. At age 17, he was living with his family and performing a juggling act at church and theater shows.
In 1904 Fields' father visited him for two months in England while he was performing there in music halls. Fields enabled his father to retire, purchased him a summer home, and encouraged his parents and siblings to learn to read and write, so they could communicate with him by letter.
Entry into vaudeville
Inspired by the success of the "Original Tramp Juggler", James Edward Harrigan, Fields adopted a similar costume of scruffy beard and shabby tuxedo and entered vaudeville as a genteel "tramp juggler" in 1898, using the name W. C. Fields. His family supported his ambitions for the stage and saw him off on the train for his first stage tour. To conceal a stutter, Fields did not speak onstage. In 1900, seeking to distinguish himself from the many "tramp" acts in vaudeville, he changed his costume and makeup, and began touring as "The Eccentric Juggler". He manipulated cigar boxes, hats, and other objects in what appears to have been a unique and fresh act, parts of which are reproduced in some of his films, notably in The Old Fashioned Way (1934).
By the early 1900s, while touring, he was regularly called the world's greatest juggler. He became a headliner in North America and Europe, and toured Australia and South Africa in 1903. When Fields played for English-speaking audiences, he found he could get more laughs by adding muttered patter and sarcastic asides to his routines. According to W. Buchanan-Taylor, a performer who saw Fields' performance in an English music hall, Fields would "reprimand a particular ball which had not come to his hand accurately", and "mutter weird and unintelligible expletives to his cigar when it missed his mouth".
In 1905 Fields made his Broadway debut in a musical comedy, The Ham Tree. His role in the show required him to deliver lines of dialogue, which he had never before done onstage. He later said, "I wanted to become a real comedian, and there I was, ticketed and pigeonholed as merely a comedy juggler." In 1913 he performed on a bill with Sarah Bernhardt (who regarded Fields as "an artiste [who] could not fail to please the best class of audience") first at the New York Palace, and then in England in a royal performance for the king and queen. He continued touring in vaudeville until 1915.
Beginning in 1915 he appeared on Broadway in Florenz Ziegfeld's Ziegfeld Follies revue. Therein, he delighted audiences with a wild billiards skit, complete with bizarrely shaped cues and a custom-built table used for a number of hilarious gags and surprising trick shots. (His pool game is reproduced, in part, in some of his films, notably in Six of a Kind .) The act was a success, and Fields starred in the Follies from 1916 to 1922, not as a juggler but as a comedian in ensemble sketches. In addition to multiple editions of the Follies, Fields starred in the Broadway musical comedy Poppy (1923), wherein he perfected his persona as a colorful small-time con man.
His stage costume from 1915 onwards featured a top hat, cut-away coat and collar, and a cane—an appearance remarkably similar to the cartoon character Ally Sloper, who may have been the inspiration for Fields' costume, according to Roger Sabin. The Sloper character may in turn have been inspired by Dickens' Mr Micawber, whom Fields later played on film.
Silent era and first talkies
In 1915, Fields starred in two short comedies, Pool Sharks and His Lordship's Dilemma, filmed in New York. His stage commitments prevented him from doing more movie work until 1924, when he played a supporting role in Janice Meredith, a Revolutionary War romance. He reprised his Poppy role in a silent-film adaptation, retitled Sally of the Sawdust (1925) and directed by D. W. Griffith. His next starring role was in the Paramount Pictures film It's the Old Army Game (1926), which featured his friend Louise Brooks, later a screen legend for her role in G. W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929) in Germany. Fields' 1926 film, which included a silent version of the porch sequence that would later be expanded in the sound film It's a Gift (1934), had only middling success at the box office. After Fields' next two features for Paramount failed to produce hits, the studio teamed him with Chester Conklin for three features which were commercial failures and are now lost.
Fields wore a scruffy clip-on mustache in all of his silent films. According to the film historian William K. Everson, he perversely insisted on wearing the conspicuously fake-looking mustache because he knew it was disliked by audiences. Fields wore it in his first sound film, The Golf Specialist (1930)—a two-reeler that faithfully reproduces a sketch he had introduced in 1918 in the Follies—and finally discarded it after his first sound feature film, Her Majesty, Love (1931), his only Warner Bros. production.
In the sound era, Fields appeared in thirteen feature films for Paramount Pictures, beginning with Million Dollar Legs in 1932. In that year he also was featured in a sequence in the anthology film If I Had a Million. In 1932 and 1933, Fields made four short subjects for comedy pioneer Mack Sennett, distributed through Paramount Pictures. These shorts, adapted with few alterations from Fields' stage routines and written entirely by himself, were described by Simon Louvish as "the 'essence' of Fields". The first of them, The Dentist, is unusual in that Fields portrays an entirely unsympathetic character: he cheats at golf, assaults his caddy, and treats his patients with unbridled callousness. William K. Everson says that the cruelty of this comedy made it "hardly less funny", but that "Fields must have known that The Dentist presented a serious flaw for a comedy image that was intended to endure", and showed a somewhat warmer persona in his subsequent Sennett shorts.
The popular success of his next feature film, International House (1933) established him as a major star. A shaky outtake from the film, allegedly the only moving image record of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, was later revealed to have been faked as a publicity stunt for the movie.
His 1934 classic It's a Gift included his stage sketch of trying to escape his nagging family by sleeping on the back porch and being bedeviled by noisy neighbors and salesmen. That film, like You're Telling Me! and Man on the Flying Trapeze, ended happily with a windfall profit that restored his standing in his screen families.
Fields married a fellow vaudevillian, chorus girl Harriet "Hattie" Hughes (1879-1963), on April 8, 1900. She became part of Fields' stage act, appearing as his assistant, whom he would entertainingly blame whenever he missed a trick. Hattie was well educated and tutored Fields in reading and writing during their travels. Fields became an enthusiastic reader and habitually traveled with a trunkful of books that included grammar books, translations of Homer and Ovid, and works by authors ranging from Shakespeare to Dickens to Twain.
The couple had a son, William Claude Fields, Jr. (July 28, 1904 - Feb. 16, 1971) and although Fields was an avowed atheist—who, according to James Curtis, "regarded all religions with the suspicion of a seasoned con man"—he yielded to Hattie's wish to have their son baptized.
By 1907 he and Hattie separated; she had been pressing him to stop touring and settle into a respectable trade, but he was unwilling to give up show business. They never divorced. Until his death, Fields continued to correspond with Hattie and voluntarily sent her a weekly stipend.
While performing in New York City at the New Amsterdam Theater in 1916, Fields met Bessie Poole, an established Ziegfeld Follies performer whose beauty and quick wit attracted him, and they began a relationship. With her he had another son, named William Rexford Fields Morris (August 15, 1917 – November 30, 2014). Neither Fields nor Poole wanted to abandon touring to raise the child, who was placed in foster care with a childless couple of Bessie's acquaintance. Fields' relationship with Poole lasted until 1926. In 1927, he made a negotiated payment to her of $20,000 upon her signing an affidavit declaring that "W. C. Fields is NOT the father of my child". Poole died of complications of alcoholism in October 1928, and Fields contributed to her son's support until he was 19 years of age.
Fields met Carlotta Monti (1907–1993) in 1933, and the two began a sporadic relationship that lasted until his death in 1946. Monti had small roles in two of Fields' films, and in 1971 wrote a biography, W.C. Fields and Me, which was made into a motion picture at Universal Studios in 1976. Fields was listed in the 1940 census as single and living at 2015 DeMille Drive (Cecil B. DeMille lived at 2000, the only other address on the street).
Alcohol, dogs, and children
Fields' screen character often expressed a fondness for alcohol, a prominent component of the Fields legend. Fields never drank in his early career as a juggler, because he did not want to impair his functions while performing. Eventually, the loneliness of constant travel prompted him to keep liquor in his dressing room as an inducement for fellow performers to socialize with him on the road. Only after he became a Follies star and abandoned juggling did Fields begin drinking regularly. His role in Paramount Pictures' International House (1933), as an aviator with an unquenchable taste for beer, did much to establish Fields' popular reputation as a prodigious drinker. Studio publicists promoted this image, as did Fields himself in press interviews.
Fields expressed his fondness for alcohol to Gloria Jean (playing his niece) in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break: "I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I am indebted to her for." Equally memorable was a line in the 1940 film My Little Chickadee: "Once, on a trek through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew...and were forced to live on food and water for several days!" The oft-repeated anecdote that Fields refused to drink water "because fish fuck in it" is unsubstantiated.
On movie sets Fields famously shot most of his scenes in varying states of inebriation. During the filming of Tales of Manhattan (1942), he kept a vacuum flask with him at all times and frequently availed himself of its contents. Phil Silvers, who had a minor supporting role in the scene featuring Fields, described in his memoir what happened next:
One day the producers appeared on the set to plead with Fields: "Please don't drink while we're shooting — we're way behind schedule" ... Fields merely raised an eyebrow. "Gentlemen, this is only lemonade. For a little acid condition afflicting me." He leaned on me. "Would you be kind enough to taste this, sir?" I took a careful sip — pure gin. I have always been a friend of the drinking man; I respect him for his courage to withdraw from the world of the thinking man. I answered the producers a little scornfully, "It's lemonade." My reward? The scene was snipped out of the picture.
In a testimonial dinner for Fields in 1939, the humorist Leo Rosten remarked of the comedian that "any man who hates dogs and babies can't be all bad". The line—which Bartlett's Familiar Quotations later erroneously attributed to Fields himself—became famous, and reinforced the popular perception that Fields hated children and dogs. In reality, Fields was somewhat indifferent to dogs, but occasionally owned one. He was fond of entertaining the children of friends who visited him, and doted on his first grandchild, Bill Fields III, born in 1943. He sent encouraging replies to all of the letters he received from boys who, inspired by his performance in The Old Fashioned Way, expressed an interest in juggling.
Illness and career sideline
In 1936, Fields' heavy drinking precipitated a significant decline in his health. By the following year he recovered sufficiently to make one last film for Paramount, The Big Broadcast of 1938, but his troublesome behavior discouraged other producers from hiring him. In 1938 he was chronically ill, and suffering from delirium tremens.
Physically unable to work in films, Fields was off the screen for more than a year. During his absence he recorded a brief speech for a radio broadcast. His familiar, snide drawl registered so well with listeners that he quickly became a popular guest on network radio shows. Although his radio work was not as demanding as motion-picture production, Fields insisted on his established movie-star salary of $5,000 per week. He joined ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and Bergen's dummy Charlie McCarthy on The Chase and Sanborn Hour for weekly insult-comedy routines.
Fields would twit Charlie about his being made of wood:
- Fields: "Tell me, Charles, is it true your father was a gate-leg table?"
- McCarthy: "If it is, your father was under it!"
When Fields would refer to McCarthy as a "woodpecker's pin-up boy" or a "termite's flophouse," Charlie would fire back at Fields about his drinking:
- McCarthy: "Is it true, Mr. Fields, that when you stood on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, 43 cars waited for your nose to change to green?"
- Bergen: "Why, Bill, I thought you didn't like children."
- Fields: "Oh, not at all, Edgar, I love children. I can remember when, with my own little unsteady legs, I toddled from room to room."
- McCarthy: "When was that, last night?"
During his recovery from illness Fields reconciled with his estranged wife, and he established a close relationship with his son after Claude's marriage in 1938.
Return to films
Fields' renewed popularity from his radio broadcasts with Bergen & McCarthy earned him a contract with Universal Pictures in 1939. His first feature for Universal, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, carried on the Fields–McCarthy rivalry. In 1940, Fields made My Little Chickadee, with Mae West, and The Bank Dick, perhaps his best-known film, in which he has the following exchange with bartender Shemp Howard:
- Fields: "Was I in here last night, and did I spend a $20 bill?"
- Shemp: "Yeah."
- Fields: "Oh boy, what a load that is off my mind... I thought I'd lost it!"
Fields fought with studio producers, directors, and writers over the content of his films. He was determined to make a movie his way, with his own script and staging, and his choice of supporting players. Universal finally gave him the chance, and the resulting film, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941), is a masterpiece of absurd humor in which Fields appeared as himself, "The Great Man". Universal's singing star Gloria Jean played opposite Fields, and his cronies Leon Errol and Franklin Pangborn served as his comic foils. But the film Fields delivered was so surreal that Universal recut and reshot parts of it, then quietly released both the film and Fields. Sucker was Fields' last starring film.
Fields often fraternized at his home with actors, directors, and writers who shared his fondness for good company and good liquor. John Barrymore, Gene Fowler, and Gregory La Cava were a few of his intimates. On March 15, 1941 while Fields was out of town, Christopher Quinn, the two-year-old son of his neighbors, actor Anthony Quinn and his wife Katherine DeMille, drowned in a lily pond on Fields' property. Grief-stricken over the tragedy, he had the pond filled in.
Fields had a substantial library in his home. Although a staunch atheist—or perhaps because of it—he studied theology and owned several volumes on the subject. According to a popular story (possibly apocryphal, according to biographer James Curtis), Fields once told someone who caught him reading a Bible that he was "looking for loopholes".
In a 1994 episode of the Biography television series, Fields' 1941 co-star Gloria Jean recalled her conversations with Fields at his home. She described him as kind and gentle in personal interactions, and believed he yearned for the family environment he never experienced as a child.
During the 1940 presidential campaign, Fields wrote a book entitled Fields for President, consisting of humorous essays in the form of a campaign speech. Dodd, Mead and Company published it in 1940, with illustrations by Otto Soglow. In 1971, when Fields was seen as an anti-establishment figure, Dodd, Mead issued a reprint, illustrated with photographs of Fields.
Fields' film career slowed considerably in the 1940s. His illnesses confined him to brief guest-star appearances in other people's films. An extended sequence in 20th Century Fox's Tales of Manhattan (1942) was cut from the original release of the film and later reinstated for some home video releases. The scene features a temperance meeting with society people at the home of a rich woman, played by Margaret Dumont, in which Fields finds that the punch has been spiked, resulting in a room full of drunken guests and a very happy Fields.
He performed his famous billiard table routine one more time for Follow the Boys, an all-star entertainment revue for the Armed Forces. (Despite the charitable nature of the movie, Fields was paid $15,000 for his appearance; he was never able to perform in person for the armed services.) In Song of the Open Road (1944), Fields juggled for a few moments, remarking, "This used to be my racket." His last film, the musical revue Sensations of 1945, was released in late 1944. Fields' vision and memory had deteriorated to the point that he read his lines from large-print blackboards.
He guested occasionally on radio as late as 1946, often with Edgar Bergen. Shortly before his death that year, Fields recorded a spoken-word album, including his "Temperance Lecture" and "The Day I Drank a Glass of Water", at Les Paul's studio, where Paul had installed his new multi-track recorder. The session was arranged by Paul's old Army pal Bill Morrow, one of Fields' radio writers. It was Fields' last performance.
Listening to one of Paul's experimental multi-track recordings, Fields remarked "The music you're making sounds like an octopus. Like a guy with a million hands. I've never heard anything like it." Paul was amused, and named his new machine OCT, short for octopus.
Fields died in 1946, from an alcohol-related stomach hemorrhage, on the holiday he claimed to despise: Christmas Day. He died at Las Encinas Sanatorium, Pasadena, California, a bungalow-type sanitarium. According to Carlotta Monti's memoir published in 1971, as he lay in bed dying, she went outside and turned the hose onto the roof, to allow Fields to hear for one last time his favorite sound—falling rain. According to the documentary W.C. Fields Straight Up, his death occurred in this way: he winked and smiled at a nurse, put a finger to his lips, and died. Fields' biographer James Curtis says this story is unlikely, and is uncorroborated by the obituary in the Pasadena Star-News and its sources in the hospital. Fields was 66, and had been a patient for 22 months. His funeral took place on January 2, 1947, in Glendale, California.
Fields' will, written in 1943, directed that he be cremated immediately upon death, but this order was delayed when Hattie and Claude Fields objected on religious grounds. They were successful in contesting another clause in Fields' will that left a portion of his estate to establish a "W. C. Fields College for Orphan White Boys and Girls, where no religion of any sort is to be preached". After litigation concerning this and other provisions of the will, Fields was cremated on June 2, 1949, and his ashes interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale.
There have been stories that Fields' grave marker reads "I'd rather be in Philadelphia", a line similar to one he used in My Little Chickadee when a mob that is preparing to hang him ask him if he has any last words: "I'd like to see Paris before I die...Philadelphia will do!" In life, Fields was known for disparaging his native city, Philadelphia. In a 1925 Vanity Fair article, "A Group of Artists Write Their Own Epitaphs". The mock-epitaph for Fields reads, "Here Lies / W.C. Fields / I Would Rather Be Living in Philadelphia."
In reality, the interment marker for Fields' ashes merely bears his stage name and the years of his birth and death.
Comic persona and style
In 1937, in an article in Motion Picture magazine, Fields analyzed the characters he played:
You've heard the old legend that it's the little put-upon guy who gets the laughs, but I'm the most belligerent guy on the screen. I'm going to kill everybody. But, at the same time, I'm afraid of everybody—just a great big frightened bully .... I was the first comic in world history, so they told me, to pick fights with children. I booted Baby LeRoy ... then, in another picture, I kicked a little dog .... But I got sympathy both times. People didn't know what the unmanageable baby might do to get even, and they thought the dog might bite me.
In features such as It's a Gift and Man on the Flying Trapeze, he is reported to have written or improvised more or less all of his own dialogue and material, leaving story structure to other writers. He frequently incorporated his stage sketches into his films—e.g., the "Back Porch" scene he wrote for the Follies of 1925 was filmed in It's the Old Army Game (1926) and It's a Gift (1934); the golf sketch he performed in the lost film His Lordship's Dilemma (1915) was re-used in the Follies of 1918, and in the films So's Your Old Man (1926), The Golf Specialist (1930), and You're Telling Me (1934).
Fields' most familiar characteristics included a distinctive drawl, which was not his normal speaking voice. His manner of muttering deprecatory asides was an inheritance from his mother, who in Fields' childhood would sit on the porch and mumble sly comments about neighbors who passed by. He delighted in provoking the censors with double entendres and the near-profanities "Godfrey Daniels" and "mother of pearl". A favorite bit of "business", repeated in many of his films, involved his hat going astray—either caught on the end of his cane, or simply facing the wrong way— as he attempts to put it onto his head.
In several of his films, he played hustlers, carnival barkers, and card sharps, spinning yarns and distracting his marks. In others, he cast himself as a victim: a bumbling everyman husband and father whose family does not appreciate him.
Fields often reproduced elements of his own family life in his films. By the time he entered motion pictures, his relationship with his estranged wife had become acrimonious, and he believed she had turned their son Claude—who he seldom saw—against him. James Curtis says of Man on the Flying Trapeze that the "disapproving mother-in-law, Mrs. Neselrode, was clearly patterned after his wife, Hattie, and the unemployable mama's boy played by [Grady] Sutton was deliberately named Claude. Fields hadn't laid eyes on his family in nearly twenty years, and yet the painful memories lingered."
Although lacking formal education, Fields was well read and a lifelong admirer of author Charles Dickens, whose characters' unusual names inspired Fields to collect odd names he encountered in his travels, to be used for his characters. Some examples are:
- "The Great McGonigle" (The Old-Fashioned Way);
- "Ambrose Wolfinger" [pointing toward "Wolf-whistling"] (Man on the Flying Trapeze);
- "Larson E. [read "Larceny"] Whipsnade", the surname taken from a dog track Fields had seen outside London (You Can't Cheat an Honest Man),
- "Egbert Sousé" [pronounced 'soo-ZAY', but pointing toward "souse", a synonym for a drunk] (The Bank Dick).
Fields often contributed to the scripts of his films under unusual pseudonyms. They include the seemingly prosaic "Charles Bogle", credited in four of his films in the 1930s; "Otis Criblecoblis", which contains an embedded homophone for "scribble"; and "Mahatma Kane Jeeves", a play on Mahatma and a phrase an aristocrat might use when about to leave the house: "My hat, my cane, Jeeves".
Fields had a small cadre of supporting players that he employed in several films:
- Elise Cavanna, whose onscreen interplay with Fields was compared (by William K. Everson) to that between Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont
- Jan Duggan, an old-maid character (actually about Fields' age). It was of her character that Fields said in The Old Fashioned Way, "She's all dressed up like a well-dressed grave."
- Kathleen Howard, as a nagging wife or antagonist
- Baby LeRoy, as a preschool child fond of playing pranks on Fields' characters
- Franklin Pangborn, a fussy, ubiquitous character actor who played in several Fields films, most memorably as J. Pinkerton Snoopington in The Bank Dick
- Alison Skipworth, as his wife (although 16 years his senior), usually in a supportive role rather than the stereotypical nag
- Grady Sutton, typically a country bumpkin type, as a foil or an antagonist to Fields' character
- Bill Wolfe, as a gaunt-looking character, usually a Fields foil
- Tammany Young, as a dim-witted, unintentionally harmful assistant, who appeared in seven Fields films until his sudden death from heart failure in 1936
Unrealized film projects
W. C. Fields was (with Ed Wynn) one of the two original choices for the title role in the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz. Fields was enthusiastic about the role, but ultimately withdrew his name from consideration so he could devote his time to writing You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.
Fields figured in an Orson Welles project. Welles's bosses at RKO Radio Pictures, after losing money on Citizen Kane, urged Welles to choose as his next film a subject with more commercial appeal. Welles considered an adaptation of Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers which would have starred Fields and John Barrymore, but Fields' schedule would not permit it. The project was shelved, and Welles went on to adapt The Magnificent Ambersons.
Influence and legacy
A best-selling biography of Fields published three years after his death, W.C. Fields, His Follies and Fortunes by Robert Lewis Taylor, was instrumental in popularizing the idea that Fields' real-life character matched his screen persona. In 1973, the comedian's grandson, Ronald J. Fields, published the first book to significantly challenge this idea, W. C. Fields by Himself, His Intended Autobiography, a compilation of material from private scrapbooks and letters found in the home of Hattie Fields after her death in 1963.
According to Woody Allen (in a New York Times interview from January 30, 2000), W. C. Fields is one of six "genuine comic geniuses" he recognized as such in movie history, along with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Groucho and Harpo Marx, and Peter Sellers.
Caricatures and imitations
- The character Horatio K. Boomer in the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show had a persona and delivery very much like the characters portrayed by W.C. Fields.
- A caricature of Fields is in Lucky Luke: The Ballad of the Daltons.
- Cartoonist Al Hirschfeld portrayed Fields in caricature many times, including the book cover illustrations for Drat!, A Flask of Fields, and Godfrey Daniels! – all edited by Richard J. Anobile.
- The TV show Gigglesnort Hotel featured a puppet character named "W. C. Cornfield" who resembled Fields in appearance and voice.
- Impressionist Rich Little often imitated Fields on his TV series The Kopycats, and he used a Fields characterization for the Ebenezer Scrooge character in his HBO special Rich Little's Christmas Carol (1978), a one-man presentation of A Christmas Carol.
- A 1960s Canadian cartoon series for kids Tales of the Wizard of Oz featured a Wizard with a voice imitation of Fields, a nod to the real-life choice of Fields to play the Wizard in the 1939 film classic opposite Judy Garland.
- Several cartoons of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s caricatured Fields, including Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. Another cartoon, "Batty Baseball" directed by Tex Avery, features a game played at "W.C. Field". One episode of The Flintstones featured a tramp who gets old clothes belonging to Fred from his wife Wilma, then when Fred attempts to take back a coat, is trounced with the tramp's cane. The tramp has Fields' voice and persona.
- A character on How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All by the Firesign Theatre features a character who speaks like W.C. Fields.
- The Wizard of Id comic strip contains a shady lawyer character, a Fields caricature named "Larsen E. Pettifogger".
- In the second series of the TV drama Gangsters a character named the White Devil is introduced, who styles himself W.D. Fields affecting the vocal mannerisms and appearance of W.C. Fields to confuse and confound his enemies. Played by series writer Philip Martin, he himself is credited in the final episode as "Larson E. Whipsnade" after Fields' character in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.
- Actor Bob Leeman portrayed Fields in the 1991 movie The Rocketeer.
- In 1971 Frito-Lay replaced the Frito Bandito ad campaign with one featuring W.C. Fritos, a round, top-hat wearing character modeled on the movie persona of Fields.
Information for this filmography is derived from the book, W. C. Fields: A Life on Film, by Ronald J. Fields. All films are feature length except where noted.
|1915||(untitled film)||Himself||Ed Wynn||Short film presented as part of the Ziegfeld Follies of 1915; lost film|
|September 19, 1915||Pool Sharks||The pool shark||Edwin Middleton||One reel; story by W.C. Fields; extant|
|October 3, 1915||His Lordship's Dilemma||Remittance man||William Haddock||One reel; extant? (print with French title cards found in 2006)|
|October 27, 1924||Janice Meredith||A British sergeant||E. Mason Hopper||extant|
|August 2, 1925||Sally of the Sawdust||Professor Eustace P. McGargle||D. W. Griffith||extant|
|October 7, 1925||That Royle Girl||Daisy Royle's father||D. W. Griffith||lost film|
|May 24, 1926||It's the Old Army Game||Elmer Prettywillie||A. Edward Sutherland||Story by J.P. McEvoy and W.C. Fields; extant|
|October 26, 1926||So's Your Old Man||Samuel Bisbee||Gregory La Cava||extant|
|January 31, 1927||The Potters||Pa Potter||Fred C. Newmeyer||lost film|
|August 20, 1927||Running Wild||Elmer Finch||Gregory La Cava||extant|
|October 17, 1927||Two Flaming Youths||J. G. "Gabby" Gilfoil||John S. Waters||lost film|
|March 3, 1928||Tillie's Punctured Romance||The Ringmaster||A. Edward Sutherland||extant?|
|May 7, 1928||Fools for Luck||Richard Whitehead||Charles F. Reisner||extant?|
|August 22, 1930||The Golf Specialist||J. Effingham Bellwether||Monte Brice||Two reels; story by W.C. Fields (uncredited)|
|October 26, 1931||Her Majesty, Love||Bela Toerrek||William Dieterle|
|July 8, 1932||Million Dollar Legs||President of Klopstokia||Edward Cline|
|October 2, 1932||If I Had a Million||Rollo La Rue||Norman Taurog|
|October 9, 1932||The Dentist||Himself||Leslie Pearce||Two reels; story by W.C. Fields (uncredited)|
|March 3, 1933||The Fatal Glass of Beer||Mr. Snavely||Clyde Bruckman||Two reels; story by W.C. Fields (uncredited)|
|April 21, 1933||The Pharmacist||Mr. Dilweg||Arthur Ripley||Two reels; story by W.C. Fields (uncredited)|
|June 2, 1933||International House||Professor Quail||A. Edward Sutherland|
|June 24, 1933||Hip Action||Himself||George Marshall||One reel|
|July 28, 1933||The Barber Shop||Cornelius O'Hare||Arthur Ripley||Two reels; story by W.C. Fields (uncredited)|
|September 8, 1933||Hollywood on Parade No. B-2||Himself||Louis Lewyn||One reel|
|October 13, 1933||Tillie and Gus||Augustus Q. Winterbottom||Francis Martin||Fields as contributing writer (uncredited)|
|October 22, 1933||Alice in Wonderland||Humpty Dumpty||Norman McLeod|
|February 9, 1934||Six of a Kind||Sheriff "Honest John" Hoxley||Leo McCarey|
|April 6, 1934||You're Telling Me!||Sam Bisbee||Erle C. Kenton||Fields as contributing writer (uncredited)|
|April 27, 1934||Hollywood on Parade No. B-10||Himself||Louis Lewyn||One reel|
|July 13, 1934||The Old Fashioned Way||The Great (Marc Antony) McGonigle||William Beaudine||Story by "Charles Bogle" (W.C. Fields)|
|October 19, 1934||Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch||Mr. C. Ellsworth Stubbins||Norman Taurog|
|November 30, 1934||It's a Gift||Harold Bissonette||Norman McLeod||Original story by "Charles Bogle" (W.C. Fields)|
|March 22, 1935||Mississippi||Commodore Orlando Jackson||A. Edward Sutherland|
|July 26, 1935||Man on the Flying Trapeze||Ambrose Wolfinger||Clyde Bruckman||Story by "Charles Bogle" (W.C. Fields)|
|October 13, 1935||David Copperfield||Wilkins Micawber||George Cukor|
|June 19, 1936||Poppy||Professor Eustace P. McGargle||A. Edward Sutherland|
|February 18, 1938||The Big Broadcast of 1938||T. Frothingill Bellows
S. B. Bellows
|February 17, 1939||You Can't Cheat an Honest Man||Larson E. Whipsnade||George Marshall||Story by "Charles Bogle" (W.C. Fields)|
|February 9, 1940||My Little Chickadee||Cuthbert J. Twillie||Edward Cline||Bar scene written by W.C. Fields|
|November 29, 1940||The Bank Dick||Egbert Sousè||Edward Cline||Story by "Mahatma Kane Jeeves" (W.C. Fields)|
|October 10, 1941||Never Give a Sucker an Even Break||The Great Man||Edward Cline||Original story by "Otis Criblecoblis" (W.C. Fields)|
|unreleased||The Laziest Golfer||Himself||(unknown)||Footage shot but never assembled|
|October 30, 1942||Tales of Manhattan||Professor Postlewhistle||Julien Duvivier||Sequence with Fields cut from original release, restored for home video (VHS)|
|May 5, 1944||Follow the Boys||Himself||A. Edward Sutherland||Fields revived his old trick pool table routine|
|June 21, 1944||Song of the Open Road||Himself||S. Sylvan Simon||Fields juggled for a few moments|
|June 30, 1944||Sensations of 1945||Himself||Andrew L. Stone||Fields revived part of his old "Caledonian Express" sketch|
- "Fields always observed his birthday on January 29, and his death certificate confirms this .... When Fields married Harriet Veronica Hughes in San Francisco, on April 8, 1900, he was twenty years old and, under California law, could not enter into a marriage without parental consent. He therefore gave his birthdate as April 9, 1879, and often used this date thereafter. However, when he applied for a passport later that same year, he swore under oath that his correct birthdate was January 29, 1880." Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 525
- Obituary Variety, January 1, 1947, page 46.
- Simon Louvish, Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W. C. Fields, 1997, pp. 29–30.
- "The Myth Of W.c.". Sun Sentinel.
- Muster roll of 72nd PA, which did not fight at Lookout Mountain! A photo of James in a Civil War period uniform, c. 1900, shows him missing his right index finger. Reproduced p. 29, Louvish.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 8.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 31.
- 1880 census, Philadelphia, p. 129A
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 14; Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 42.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 34.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 12.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 16–17.
- "W.C. Fields Biography". The Biography Channel (UK).
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 10, 42.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 24, 26.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 69.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 68–69.
- Trav, S.D. No Applause—Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, 1965, p. 146.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 26.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 30.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 46–47.
- "W.C. Fields Biography". The Biography Channel (UK).
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 488.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 54.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p, 72.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 85.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 87.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 495.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 99–100.
- "Ally Sloper: The First Comics Superstar?". imageandnarrative.be.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 103–105.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 106, 166.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 272.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 274–275.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 280, 282, 286.
- Everson, William K. The Art of W.C. Fields. 1967, New York: Bonanza Books. p. 44.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 205, 312.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 340–341.
- Everson, William K. The Art of W.C. Fields. 1967, New York: Bonanza Books. p. 85.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 362.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 259.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 389–390.
- "W. C. Fields' Widow Wins. Entitled to Half $771,000, Though Long Estranged, Judge Rules.". New York Times. July 8, 1949.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 48.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 50.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 82.
- Canby, Vincent (February 19, 1966). "Son of W. C. Fields Toasts Him in Tea. Comic's Namesake, Here for Festival, Is a Teetotaler.". New York Times.
William Claude Fields, Jr., the only child of the man who once said that anybody who hates children cannot be all bad, sat somewhat uncomfortably late yesterday afternoon in the eighth-floor lounge at the Gallery of Modern Art, sipping a cup of tea, a beverage his father might have chosen only in extremis.
- Jordan, S. C. (2008). Hollywood's original rat pack The bards of Bundy Drive. Lanham, Maryland [u.a.]: Scarecrow Press. p. 151. ISBN 0-8108-6032-5
- Claude W. Dukenfield, age 30 at 3920 North Marshall Street, Philadelphia, age 30, an actor, in the tenth year of his first marriage. His wife is not present in the household.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 178, 474.
- Gehring, W. D. (1994). Groucho and W.C. Fields Huckster comedians. Jackson, Miss: University Press of Mississippi. p. 70. ISBN 0-585-19049-6
- "FINAL TRIBUTE TO WILLIAM REXFORD FIELDS MORRIS: 1917 - 2014 - Facebook". facebook.com.
- "An Interview with WC Fields' 94 year old son.". YouTube. May 29, 2012.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 121.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 203.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 215.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 347.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 364–365, 472–473.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 116–117.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 260, 263.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 264, 300.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 230.
- Silvers, P. This Laugh Is on Me: The Phil Silvers Story. Prentice-Hall (1973), p. 116. ISBN 0139191003
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 392.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 393.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 464.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 293–294.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 355–70.
- W.C. Fields Radio recordings Archived June 15, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Fields was known among his friends as "Bill". Fields played himself in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, and his "niece" called him "Uncle Bill". (In one scene he introduced himself: "I'm W.C., uh, Bill Fields").
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p.426.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 434–435.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 472.
- "W. C. Fields: Behind the Laughter". Biography. August 8, 1994. A&E.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 415–416.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 454–456.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 466.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 471.
- The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy, 1915-1963 By Robb Lawrence. Hal Leonard Books, New York NY
- "W.C. Fields, 66, Dies. Famed as Comedian. Mimicry Star of the Films Since 1924 Got Start as a $5-a-Week Juggler. Rarely Followed Script. Raspy Remarks and 'Know-It-All' Perspective Made Him Nation-Wide Character.". New York Times. December 26, 1946.
Pasadena, California, December 25, 1946 (Associated Press) W.C. Fields, the comedian whose deadpan gestures, raspy remarks and "never give a sucker an even break" characterizations made him a showman beloved the nation over, died today at the age of 66.
- W.C. Fields: Straight Up at the Internet Movie Database
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 481.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 481–482.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p.474.
- Buscombe, Edward, and Rob White. (2003). British Film Institute film classics. T. 1. London: Fitzroy Dearborn. p. 269. ISBN 1579583288.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 486.
- Lines 1 and 3 are in small caps in the original. The article is reprinted in Vanity Fair: Selections from America's Most Memorable Magazine, edited by Cleveland Amory and Frederic Bradlee, pages 102–103. Viking Press, 1960
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 3–4.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 303–307, 331–332.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 247, 495.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 190, 205, 312.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 313.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, pp. 31, 346.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 211.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 3.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 191.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 329.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 300.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 378.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 424.
- Everson, William K. (1967). The Art of W.C. Fields. New York: Bonanza Books. p. 81. ISBN 0-517-01232-4.
- Jan Duggan (actress). omnilexica.com. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 373–376.
- Mell, Eila (2005). Casting might-have-beens: a film by film directory of actors considered for roles given to others. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 132. ISBN 0786420170.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, p. 487.
- Louvish, Simon. Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields, 1999, Faber & Faber, p. 11.
- "Here A Comic Genius, There A Comic Genius". nytimes.com. January 30, 2000.
- Curtis, James. W.C. Fields: A Biography. New York: A. Knopf, 2003, pp. 491–492.
- "Lucky Luke - Ballad Of the Daltons (1978) - English 4/8". YouTube. October 17, 2009.
- Woolery, George W. (1983). Children's television, the first thirty-five years, 1946–1981. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press. p. 199. ISBN 0810815575.
- W. C. Fields, Fields for President (1940, 1971) Dodd, Mead ISBN 0-396-06419-1. (Humorous essays about Fields' stance on marriage, politics, finance, etc.)
- Robert Lewis Taylor, W.C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes (1949) Doubleday & Co., (1967) New American Library ISBN 0-451-50653-7. (First book biography, with many firsthand quotes from friends and colleagues)
- Gene Fowler, Minutes of the Last Meeting (1954) Viking Press
- Eddie Cantor, As I Remember Them (1963) Duell, Sloan & Pearce
- Donald Deschner (ed.), The Films of W.C. Fields (1966, 2000) Citadel Press
- Corey Ford, "The One and Only W.C. Fields" from The Time of Laughter (1967) Little, Brown
- William K. Everson, The Art of W.C. Fields (1967) Random House ISBN 0-517-01232-4. (First book-length examination of the Fields films)
- Richard J. Anobile (ed.), Drat!: Being the Encapsulated View of Life by W. C. Fields in His Own Words (1968) World Publishing
- David Robinson, The Great Funnies: A History of Film Comedy (1969) E.P. Dutton
- Jan Kindler, "Elysian Fields" from Playboy (March 1969)
- Bosley Crowther, "W.C. Fields Comedy Festival" from New York Times Film Reviews, 1959–1968 (1970) Arno Press
- Andre Sennwald, capsule reviews from New York Times Film Reviews, 1932–1938 (1970) Arno Press
- Raymond Durgnat, "Suckers and Soaks" from The Crazy Mirror: Hollywood Comedy and the American Image (1970) Dell Publishing
- Andrew Bergman, "Some Anarcho-Nihilist Laff Riots" from We're in the Money: Depression America and Its Films (1971) New York University Press
- Otis Ferguson, "The Great McGonigle" from The Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson (1971) Temple University Press
- Carlotta Monti (with Cy Rice), W.C. Fields and Me (1971) Prentice-Hall, ISBN 978-0139444548. (basis of the 1976 film starring Rod Steiger)
- Richard J, Anobile (ed.), A Flask of Fields: Verbal and Visual Gems from the Films of W.C. Fields (1972) W.W. Norton
- Leonard Maltin, Selected Short Subjects (first published as The Great Movie Shorts, 1972) Crown Publishers, (revised 1983) Da Capo Press
- Ronald J. Fields (ed.), W.C. Fields by Himself: His Intended Autobiography with Hitherto Unpublished Letters, Notes, Scripts and Articles (1973) Prentice-Hall ISBN 0-13-944462-9.
- W. C. Fields (with Charles Grayson), The Bank Dick (1973) Simon & Schuster (the August 22, 1940 screenplay)
- W. C. Fields (with John T. Neville, et al.), Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (Rupert Hughes, et al.) Tillie and Gus (1973) Simon & Schuster (Continuity scripts derived from these films)
- Penelope Gilliatt, "To W.C. Fields, Dyspeptic Mumbler, Who Invented His Own Way Out" from Unholy Fools: Wits, Comics, Disturbers of the Peace (1973) Viking Press
- Gerald Mast, The Comic Mind: Comedy and the Movies (1973, 2nd ed. 1979) University of Chicago Press
- Donald W. McCaffrey, "The Latter-Day Falstaff" from The Golden Age of Sound Comedy (1973) A.S. Barnes
- Nicholas Yanni, W.C. Fields (1974) Pyramid Library
- Richard J. Anobile (ed.), Godfrey Daniels!: Verbal and Visual Gems from the Short Films of W. C. Fields (1975) Crown
- Walter Kerr, The Silent Clowns (1975) Alfred A. Knopf, (1990) Da Capo Press
- Stuart Byron and Elizabeth Weis (eds.), The National Society of Film Critics on Movie Comedy (1977) Grossman/Viking
- Leonard Maltin, The Great Movie Comedians (1978) Crown
- Will Fowler, The Second Handshake (1980) Lyle Stuart
- Louise Brooks, "The Other Face of W.C. Fields" from Lulu in Hollywood (1982) Alfred A. Knopf
- Ronald J. Fields, W.C. Fields: A Life on Film (1984) St. Martin's Press
- Wes D. Gehring, W.C. Fields: A Bio-Bibliography (1984) Greenwood Press
- Gerald Weales, Canned Goods as Caviar: American Film Comedy of the 1930s (1985) University of Chicago Press
- David T. Rocks, W.C. Fields: An Annotated Guide (1993) McFarland & Co.
- Wes D. Gehring, Groucho and W.C. Fields: Huckster Comedians (1994) University Press of Mississippi
- Simon Louvish, It's a Gift (1994) British Film Institute
- Simon Louvish, Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields (1999) Faber & Faber ISBN 0-393-04127-1. (New biography with new research)
- Ronald J. Fields with Shaun O'L. Higgins, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break: W.C. Fields on Business (2000) Prentice-Hall
- James Curtis, W.C. Fields: A Biography (2003) Alfred A. Knopf ISBN 0-375-40217-9. (The definitive, comprehensive biography, with many "apocryphal" stories from previous bios corrected)
- Scott MacGillivray and Jan MacGillivray, Gloria Jean: A Little Bit of Heaven (2005) iUniverse ISBN 978-0-595-67454-1. (Authorized biography with recollections of Fields at work)
- Wes D. Gehring, Film Clowns of the Depression (2007) McFarland & Co.
- Gregory William Mank (et al.), Hollywood's Hellfire Club (2007) Feral House
- Arthur Frank Wertheim. W. C. Fields from Burlesque and Vaudeville to Broadway: Becoming a Comedian (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). xxvi, 264 pp.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: W. C. Fields|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to W.C. Fields.|
- W. C. Fields at the Internet Movie Database
- W. C. Fields at the Internet Broadway Database
- Official site
- Official fan club
- Criterion Collection essay by Dennis Perrin on W.C. Fields: Six Short Films
- The Fatal Glass of Beer (iPod format) at the Internet Archive
- W.C. Fields' first show for the Chase And Sanborn Hour 1937-05-09 (01) Guest – Ann Harding
- New Rochelle Festival Celebrates the Funny Side of Life, The New York Times, March 8, 1987
- W. C. Fields at Find a Grave