There IS only one W. C. — the great Mr. Fields.
Was he America’s funniest movie comedian? We say yes, but the former William Claude Dukinfield of Philadelpha, Pa. was much more than that. Born in 1880, he emerged against great odds an international vaudeville star before the age of 20. He was a star long before becoming a movie star.
He didn’t start making movies until 1915, when he was 35, and didn’t appear in his best features until the late Thirties. In all, Fields screen output was relatively modest by classic movie standards, some 40 titles. But, oh, what pictures!
He hated Christmas. Disliked working with animals and children. Was a notoriously thrift monger who opened several hundred bank accounts in different locations under strange names. Despite his wealth, he was dogged by the specter of poverty all his life.
So how much do you know about W.C. Fields? Try our Monday Quiz — inspired by Robert Lewis Taylor’s 1967 biography, W.C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes — and find out. As the French say, bonne chance. (Questions today, answers tomorrow.)
1) Question: Fields had great fondness for odd pseudonyms employed in his various professional capacities. Which of the following did he use for his script writing? a) Charles Bogle; b) Mahatma Kane Jeeves; c) Dr. Otis Guelpe; or d) Figley E. Whitesides.
2) Question: Before he even started in movies, Fields carved out a highly successful international vaudeville career as: a) an operetta singer; b) a mime; c) an acrobat; or d) a juggler?
3) Question: Fields is legendary for his preference for alcoholic spirits, and his lifelong battle with alcoholism. A) True; or b) False?
4) Question: Can you match the following names of Fields’ characters to the titles of the movies in which Fields played them? a) Egbert Souse; b) Larson E. Whipsnade; c) Augustus Winterbottom; d) Harold Bissonette.
5) Question: Despite his obsession with thrift, Fields married and divorced several times and paid handsomely for the privilege. a) True; or b) False.
6) Question: Fields famously costarred with Mae West in 1940′s My Little Chickadee. How did these idiosyncratic two stars get on? a) Not well. They fought over everything from lighting placements to billing; b) Cautiously. Each wrote most of their own dialogue; c) West felt she was playing second fiddle to Fields; or d) They adored each other.
7) Question: Some 30 years after his death, Fields enjoyed a popular resurgence among a new generation of fans. As a result, his image appeared on the sleeve of the album by which one of the following rockers? a) Iggy Pop; b) The Rolling Stones; c) The Beatles; or d) The Dave Clark Five.
8) Question: Fields alcoholic consumption left its mark on his large and veiny nose that has came to be symptomatic of alcoholism. a) True; or b) False.
9) Question: Can you name the child star that Fields reluctantly costarred with in MGM’s 1935 film adaptation of Dickens’ David Copperfield? a) Margaret O’Brien; b) Mickey Rooney; c) Freddie Bartholomew; or d) Jackie Cooper.
10) Question: Fields was always envious of Charlie Chaplin’s talent, and couldn’t bring himself to sit through a film starring the little tramp. a) True; or b) False.