W. C. Fields
January 29, 1980 - December 25, 1946
"Some weasel took the cork out of my lunch."
His birth name was William Claude Dukenfield, and he was originally slated to
play the Wizard in The Wizard Of Oz. He either rejected it
because the part was too small (that's what she said) or the price wasn't of his
liking. Fields was one of the most
original performers, in appearance and voice. W.C. was one of those people that
everyone was convinced they could imitate well, and SO couldn't. Ed
McMahon pretty much defines this.
Fields was an accomplished magician, juggler and his tricks on the pool table
were legendary - thus making him hugely successful in vaudeville and
burlesque. He eventually moved on to films, mostly for Paramount
Studios. He was teamed with Mae West in My Little Chickadee - which was terrific pairing, despite their mutual contempt for each
other. Mostly because West didn't drink, and well...
W.C. loved the bottle, and his health suffered because of it. He lived in a section of LA now called
Park, very near Griffith Park.
Legend has it that Fields would keep a
rifle handy, in case any wildlife might wander out of the nearby park or
zoo. Not a ridiculous thought, coyotes are seen skulking about that area
often. Also, this is the house where Lily Tomlin lived from 1981 to 1999. Can't see the front of the
house, but you can see the garage.
Here's a funny: If you go up to the Observatory in Griffith Park, to the back
stairs where those telescope things are, you can put fifty cents in and see the
house quite clearly. Interesting factoid, Fields never owned this home, or
any property. He preferred to keep his money in cash, in
banks. The people that did own the house - would occasionally find cigar
butts tucked away in odd corners of the basement.
The house has been modified considerably. In May of 2009
my pal Vendreti got us an invite to the home next door to the Fields
house. I was finally able to see the home.
An interesting slice of Hollywood history happened there. Across the road
from Fields, lived Cecil B. DeMille. The street they lived on was
Demille Drive. I mean seriously, what are the odds?
DeMille's daughter Katherine was married
to actor Anthony Quinn. On March 15th, 1941, their little 2-year-old
son Christopher wandered on to W.C. Fields property and drowned. EJ
clarifies: Fields had a large
circular fountain in front of the house (beneath the stairs off the front porch
that you can see in your photo). Fields used to leave model boats floating
in the fountain - he collected them - and the kid went into the fountain to get
one of the boats. That's how he drowned. The story goes that Fields
took the boats and burned them and had the fountain torn out and filled in the
W.C. was mortified and devastated, especially because of his reputation for
hating children. Legend has it, he had the pool filled in. If that's true,
Lily must have had it unfilled, because if you look closely through these shrubs, you can see it.
EJ Fleming confirms - the pool would have been added later.
In early 1946, the effects of cirrhosis were becoming more evident. His
abdomen began to swell and fill with water, distending his stomach. He was
losing strength in his arms and legs and his kidneys were not functioning
well. He announced he wasn't renewing the lease on the house and sold his
household possessions. He was admitted to the Los Encinas
Sanitarium where he had a private bungalow.
last weeks were spent in bed, sometimes reading a Bible. When asked why,
his reply was, "looking for loopholes."
According to his mistress Carlotta Monti, Fields' last words were,
"G*ddamn the whole friggin' world and everyone in it but you,
Carlotta." In the same paragraph, Carlotta says he was 68 years
old. mmhm. I'm sure that is exactly what he said.
It was Christmas Day, 1946. He was 66 years old.
immediate cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver.
Again according to Carlotta there were three funerals.
One was non denominational, where Edgar Bergen gave the eulogy, "We are
uninvited guests here, you know, because Hill didn't want a religious funeral
service. He said to me once, 'If I ever found a church that didn't
believe in knocking all the other churches, I might consider joining
it."' There was a Catholic service for the Field's family, in which
Fields' mistress was excluded. The last was done by Carlotta, said by the
Reverend Mae Taylor.
Fields was cremated and his ashes are interred in a niche in the
Great Mausoleum in Forest Lawn, Glendale. Spitting distance from Michael
Jackson. In fact, he probably does. Unfortunately, Fields did not
mark his tombstone with, "I'd rather be in Philadelphia," as he often
said he would.
There were "issues" with the estate and Carlotta -
mostly because Fields was still married and had a son. W.C. left a $770,000 estate behind. Carlotta won two trust funds
that paid her about 50 bucks a week for ten years.
On Friday, January 29, 2010 - W.C. Fields would
have turned 130 years old. The Magic Castle in Hollywood held a
celebration to acknowledge the event. The Magic Castle has an amazing
collection of Fields' memorabilia - including Fields' very own pool table
vaudeville on which he would perform tricks. Attending was writer Lisa
Burks, who sends us a great recap of this magical evening at the Castle. Thank you, Lisa and
W.C. Fields in Pop Culture
Fields appears in the top row on the Sgt. Pepper album cover.
More: Remember when Fritos used a cartoon W.C. Fields (W.C.
Fritos) as their spokesperson? Plus, they made delicious erasers.
Some of the information on this page was collected from the
book W.C. Fields and Me - by Carlotta Monti, billed as "The Woman Who Lived
With Him For 14 Years." Anyone can call bullsh*t but any way you look
at it, she was there.
Wanna see his mailbox?
The W.C. Fields Fan