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

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W. C. Fields A period of confusion followed the comedian's death. It is perhaps best to draw a curtain of charity over much of the shoddy fuss that followed the reading of his will. Miss Michael, as executrix, faithfully discharged her duties when the physicians pronounced him dead. She called Mrs. Fields and her son Claude. They came to the sanitarium with the greatest dispatch, and took charge of his effects. Fields' will stipulated that his body was to be taken to a cemetery and immediately cremated, and that under no conditions was he to have any sort of funeral. He had three. First, Mrs. Fields and Claude had a good-sized public one, of a generally non-sectarian nature, at which Edgar Bergen officiated. Bergen made a brief, unemotional talk. "It seems wrong not to pray for a man who gave such happiness to the world," he told a large crowd of friends and film people. "But that was the way he wanted it. Bill knew life, and knew that laughter was the way to live it. He knew that happiness depended on disposition, not position. . . . We simply say farewell." Mrs. Fields indicated that she would overrule the comedian's wish about cremation, on the ground that such a procedure was contrary to her religious doctrines. No mention was made of Fields' doctrines. Commenting on the service, the Los Angeles Times said, "When the family departed, Carlotta (Monti) tried to go to the crypt. A cemetery attendant stopped her. On orders of Mr. Fields' son, she was not to be admitted until the crypt was sealed." After the first funeral Mrs. Fields had another, a Catholic service. Then Miss Monti had a third funeral, a spiritualist read- ing, presided over by the Reverend Mae Taylor, a leading Holly- wood practitioner. The will left Mrs. Fields and Claude each ten thousand dollars. It mentioned trust funds of seventy-five dollars weekly for Fields' brother, Walter, sixty dollars weekly for his sister, Adele, and twenty-five dollars weekly for Carlotta. Various other friends, 33*