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W. C. Fields

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Although W. C. Fields (1880-1946) has remained justly famous for such comic masterpieces as his films Tillie and Gus (1933), Poppy (1936), and My Little Chickadee (1940), many people have mistakenly believed that his film persona of a witty con man corresponded to his actual character. During his lifetime, W. C. Fields was almost obsessive in protecting his privacy and even many of his closest friends ignored important facts about his personal life such as his marriage to Hattie and the existence of their son Claude. No accurate biography of W. C. Fields existed until the publication of this book by James Curtis, who was granted access to personal archives by W. C. Fields’s five grandchildren and by heirs of many of his friends and colleagues.

James Curtis portrays W. C. Fields as a magnificent pantomime, juggler, and comic actor who nevertheless was not a sympathetic person. Although he never divorced his wife Hattie whom he had married in 1900, he had little contact with her and their son Claude after his birth in 1904 and he failed to grant them much financial assistance despite his very high earnings. W. C. Fields was especially harsh in criticizing Hattie and Claude because they were Catholic. He also had a son out of wedlock with the actress Bessie Poole, but he failed to give meaningful financial support to this child as well. He was an irresponsible person in his personal life, but he was a comic genius who knew how to make people laugh in vaudeville, stage plays, and films. W. C. Fields was a brilliant comedian who was an insensitive and egotistical man.