According to Fields' mistress in her biography "W. C. Fields and Me" his four rules of comedy were (1) Never break anything. (2) A henpecked husband gets surefire laughs. (3)Clothes are of paramount importance: "every crease, fold, and droop of flesh can be the object of hilarity. (4) Everyone has a percentage of sadist in him.
According to film historians, he performed in only one film exactly according to script and as directed. That one was MGM's David Copperfield (1935), in which he co-starred with Freddie Bartholomew, who was only ten years old. Fields admired the Charles Dickens book and wanted desperately to play Mr. Micawber in the movie, so he agreed to forego his usual ad-libs and put aside his distaste at working with child actors.
According to friends, the biggest laugh he ever got as a stage performer was when a monologue he was giving on-stage was interrupted by a long, loud crash of objects backstage. After the crashing stopped, and the audience was silent, Fields gave a one-word comment in a stage whisper: "Mice!"
After bring hit on the head by his father, Fields got his revenge by hiding in the rafters of a stable with a large wooden box in his hands. When his father entered the building, Fields dropped it on his head. Following the incident, he ran away from home.
Although he is quoted as saying that he was "the best ballet dancer in the world.", secretly he was extremely jealous of Charles Chaplin, whom he had known when he was younger, for achieving worldwide fame and adoration.
Although his marriage to Harriet Hughes lasted until his death in 1946, they separated as early as in 1904.
Although one of his most famous quotes is "Never work with animals or children." he secretly admired children.
Although well known for his addiction to alcohol today, Fields did in fact rarely touch alcohol until he was in his mid-30s. He began his career in vaudeville as a juggler, and with that profession he could not afford to drink a lot, as his act demanded precise coordination and concentration in order to succeed.
Appears on sleeve of The Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith, pg. 160-163. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387
Could juggle or balance practically anything he could lift or carry; Fields unnerved his despised mother-in-law by keeping a lit cigar, a candle (in holder), or a beer bottle balanced atop his head at mealtimes, never seeming to notice its presence.
Enshrined in the Juggling Hall of Fame.
Father of W. C. Fields, Jr. (b. 1903)
Fields always regretted not having more formal education. He traveled with a trunk of books, reading whenever he could, and thought for a time about hiring a tutor. He lavished praise on "Readers' Digest" magazine, in later years.
Fields was terrified of slipping back into the poverty of his youth. To forestall this eventuality, he set up dozens of bank accounts across the country under a variety of aliases. Most of the money went unclaimed.
Fields' wife Hattie became his partner in his juggling act after their marriage; he sent her home to his parents when she became pregnant. After Fields returned from the road, they discovered they'd grown apart, but Hattie wouldn't give him a divorce, and when Fields refused to "find a regular job", she began badmouthing him to their young son, William Jr.. Fields predicted that the boy would grow up to see the truth of the situation (Fields never failed to support his family, however much or little he was earning)... and it happened. While father and son rarely saw each other over the years, Fields was proudly introduced to his firstborn grandson (W.C. Fields III) before his death.
Grandchildren: Ruthie, Everett, and Bill.
Grandfather of Ronald J. Fields, who edited a biography titled "W.C. Fields by Himself". The book dispelled many longstanding stories about Fields, including ones of his living for years on the street. Young Fields did indeed run away from home after fights with his father, but usually no farther than his grandmother's, and he would return home the next day. He stayed with his grandmother just before beginning his professional career as a juggler.
Had a lifetime disdain for music; this he attributed to having to hear his father's singing day and night as a child, loudest when "the old patriarch" was drunk (companion Carlotta Monti claimed Fields once hit her with a cane, to stop her humming with a guitar). When expected to sing in a role, he almost always made a complete farce of both the lyrics and his performance.
Has a medical syndrome named after him - 'W.C. Fields syndrome', characterized by rhinophyma (rosacea of the nose) associated with alcoholism.