W. Fields Major Works - Essay

Major Works

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

"Bill had only one story," recalled director Eddie Sutherland. "It wasn't a story at all, really—there was just an ugly old man, an ugly woman, and a brat of a child." The Fatal Glass of Beer, one of four short films Fields wrote during 1932 and 1933, did indeed center around an absurd story involving a father, mother, and their long-lost son; but in The Dentist, The Pharmacist, and The Barber Shop, Fields's character confronted institutions or professions rather than family members. With It's a Gift, he began to develop the henpecked persona in the form of a grocer consumed by his dream of starting an orange grove on a worthless plot of land in California. Ambrose Wolfinger in The Man on the Flying Trapeze is similarly hapless, as is Fields's character in The Bank Dick, a bank security guard who repeatedly escapes his family to drink at the Black Pussy Cat Café. By contrast, Larson E. Whipsnade, the protagonist of You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, is typical of Field's other persona, the cynical and conniving rascal. That persona reappeared in My Little Chickadee, with Fields and West playing types they had already made famous in their careers. Fields wrote under a variety of unlikely sounding pseudonyms such as "Mahatma Kane Jeeves." The years since Fields's death have seen the appearance of numerous books containing his witticisms, as well as a volume edited by grandson Ronald Fields, entitled W.C. Fields by Himself: His Intended Autobiography (1973).