W. C. Fields : his follies and fortunes (1949)

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W. C. Fields "Bill only had one story," says Eddie Sutherland, who directed several Fields pictures. "It wasn't a story at all, really—there was just an ugly old man, an ugly old woman, and a brat of a child." Creatively, Fields was aloof from the formal story. He considered life a highly disorganized tale, at the best, and he was convinced that art should follow in its footsteps. In consequence, he as- sembled, for a "plot," a series of very distantly related incidents aimed to depict the most deplorable and humorous aspects of human existence. It was his continuing program, for example, to steer children into saloons; also, he underwrote many other enter- prises of dubious standing, such as theft, arson, swindling, fraud, mayhem and murder. One of the most uplifting scenes in Never Give a Sucker an Even Break found him, with his niece, Gloria Jean, drinking a whitish fluid in a saloon. Fields, with a look of belligerent ease, was hunched against the wood, his arresting nose not far from the slender fire of a brass cigar lighter. "What kind of goat's milk is it, Uncle Bill?" asked the admiring tot. "Nanny goat's milk, my dear," replied her old uncle, and as he breathed into the lighter a two-foot blue flame leaped out across the bar. When he was approached about the straight part of Wilkins Micawber, in David Copper field, Fields was charmed. He assured Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which made the picture, that he loved straight parts, and he enthusiastically signed a contract which required him to speak with an English accent. Later on, thinking the part over, he announced that, as Micawber, he believed he would do some juggling. Horrified, the studio heads vetoed the idea at once. "Dickens made no mention of juggling in David Copperfield" one of them said coldly.