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

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relatives and employees were bequeathed sums of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. The remainder of the estate, which was appraised at $800,000, in cash, was to be used for the estab- lishment of the "W. C. Fields College for Orphan White Boys and Girls, Where No Religion of Any Sort Is to Be Preached." Gene Fowler recalls that some time before his death Fields had intended the orphanage for colored children. His decision to switch was caused by the insolence, or imagined insolence, of a colored servant he employed. During his lifetime, Fields' affections for races and sects veered sharply from day to day. In general, however, he bore all groups the same considered animosity. And from start to finish it was entirely superficial. Even after his change of heart about the orphans, he paid off a $4000 mortgage on the house of his Negro cook, and he once ordered from his premises a man who used the word "nigger" within earshot of his staff. Mrs. Fields' and her son's answer to the will was to file suits that, in effect, would convey almost the entire estate to them. Mrs. Fields, in claiming half the $800,000 as automatically hers under the California community property law, seems likely to make out, as the widow, very comfortably; the future of the orphans looks dubious. Among her other suits, she claims that Fields, during his life, "gave away" more than $400,000 to women, and she is entitled, she says, to half of that sum, too. The lawsuits, involving the usual congress of attorneys, drag on, and the estate, accumulated so bitterly by one of the world's hardest workers, dwindles. In the meantime, the court has directed Miss Michael, as executrix, to pay Mrs. Fields $600 a month. Miss Monti has never received any payments from her minute trust fund, the court not having reached a decision on it to date. At present she is working in a restaurant. In the scrapping over his money, Fields himself was largely forgotten. Two years after his death he lay in an unmarked grave 339