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

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The Dukinfield household was dedicated to making ends meet, and there are grounds for the belief that Fields was dangerously bored by the time he was four. The family recreation consisted of listening to Mr. Dukinfield sing sentimental and religious songs, after he'd had a couple of beers. His favorites were "The Little Green Leaf in the Bible," "Annie Laurie," and "Oh, Genevieve," all of which Fields detested to his dying day. In fact, he worked up a strong fixation about vocal music, and would absent himself from any locality in which he believed song threatened. One of his mistresses, toward the end of his life, handled domestic spats by locking herself in his bathroom and singing at the top of her notable voice. Fields would howl piteously, beat on the walls with a cane, and threaten to burn the house down with her in it. He went to the length, on one occasion, of firing some newspapers and holding them in such a way that the smoke curled under her door. She emerged, but she continued to sing till she reached the street, and Fields later conceded her a moral victory. "The girl's got guts," he told several friends. The elder Dukinfield, who annoyed Fields from the start by dropping his h's, was occasionally jolly around the house, but he was prey to fits of tyranny. He was an ardent devotee of the quick, disciplinary blow, leaning slightly to backhanders. He got to the point where he was punctuating sentences by whacking Fields. Dukinfield was missing the little finger of his left hand—a deletion he attributed to the Crimean War—and a backward cuff with that hand was, according to Fields, uncommonly pain- ful. Though a good, loyal American, the father had monarchic sympathies. He was not entirely ready to accept the Revolution. "Would the King be proud of that?" he'd bawl at the boy, and administer a clout to remind him of his duty. Without doubt, Dukinfield would have been aghast to learn that, some years hence, his son would be chatting companionably with an admir- ing Edward VII.