W.C. Fields

W.C. Fields

He admired African-Americans, and spoke out in favor of fairer treatment for them during the days of segregation in the US. He generously paid off the $4000 mortgage on the house of his African-American cook. He once ordered from his premises a man who used the "N-word" within earshot of his staff.

He said that The Marx Brothers were the only act he couldn't follow on the live stage. He is known to have appeared on the same bill with them only once, during an engagement at Keith's Orpheum Theatre in Columbus, OH, in January 1915. At the time the Marx Brothers were touring "Home Again", and it didn't take Fields long to realize how his quiet comedy juggling act was faring against the anarchy of the Marxes. Fields later wrote of the engagement (and the Marxes), "They sang, danced, played harp and kidded in zany style. Never saw so much nepotism or such hilarious laughter in one act in my life. The only act I could never follow . . . I told the manager I broke my wrist and quit.".

He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 7004 Hollywood Boulevard and for Radio at 6316 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.

He was the second choice to play the title role in The Wizard of Oz (1939). There are still some arguments as to why he turned the part down. Some sources say that he refused to play "The Wizard" because MGM wouldn't pay the salary he wanted, but according to Doug McClelland, author of "Down The Yellow Brick Road", Fields was too busy writing and acting in his latest film for Universal Pictures - You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939) - to be loaned out to MGM to play the part.

His father was a US Civil War veteran; "W.C. Fields by Himself" includes a photograph of his father wearing his old Army uniform.

His much-vaunted detestation of children is generally thought to have been largely put-on. Co-stars Freddie Bartholomew and Gloria Jean both recalled him as being warm and solicitous. Further evidence of this is the case of 18-month old Gregory Quinn. In 1941, the oldest son of Anthony Quinn and Catherine DeMille wandered off his maternal grandparents' (Cecil B. DeMille) property and onto Fields's, next door. There, the youngster accidentally fell into Fields' fish pond and drowned. Fields was said to have been very much disturbed by this, and moved away shortly thereafter.

His son, with wife Hattie, William C. "Claude" Dukenfield,was born on July 28, 1904. He had another son, born on August 15, 1917, with girlfriend Bessie Poole, named William Rexford Fields Morris.

His wife was born in 1878. She died November 7, 1963.

Inspired the character Captain Erasmus Mulligan in Morris' Lucky Luke graphic novel Western Circus.

Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Great Mausoleum, Holly Terrace entrance, Hall of Inspiration.

Is portrayed by Chuck McCann in Mae West (1982) (TV) and by Rod Steiger in W.C. Fields and Me (1976)

It was generally assumed that his prominent proboscis was the result of his drinking, an assumption he himself fueled in his comedy. However, it is believed to have actually been a physical characteristic inherited from his mother's side of the family.

Legend has it that on the set of You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), a stagehand was cleaning out Fields' dressing room and accidentally bumped into a table on which Fields had placed a bottle of whiskey. He caught the bottle before it hit the floor, but the cork had popped out and he couldn't find it. He placed the bottle back on the table and left. Later Fields came back to the dressing room, and a few minutes afterwards stormed out, roaring "Who took the cork out of my lunch?"

Lived with Carlotta Monti for fourteen years.

Painter/artist John Decker painted W.C. Fields as Queen Victoria of England.

Pictured on a 15¢ US commemorative postage stamp in the Performing Arts and Artists series, issued 29 January 1980 (100th anniversary year of his birth).

Reportedly had hidden microphones installed along the front walk to his Hollywood home; Fields would slip into a small room to listen to guests talking as they departed. When someone spoke negatively about him, Fields would amuse himself by alluding to what they'd said, the next time he saw them.

Rock-and-roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis has said on several occasions that Fields is his favorite comedian.

Slipped a dose of gin into Baby LeRoy's milk bottle during a movie shoot, when the set nurse left for a bathroom break; production had to stop for a day until the child could sober up (Fields reportedly sent money later to LeRoy's family, after the boy's screen career ended and they had financial trouble).

Stopped drinking for over a year during his career, when a friend died of alcohol-related causes, but eventually went back to it.