W.C. FIELDS (U.S.) (1879 – 1946)
The comedy of W.C. Fields was – and remains the ultimate in screen misanthropy.
He genuinely disliked and distrusted most people – especially bankers. cops, wives, mothers in law, children, animals and negroes.
Throughout 42 films (of which only 32 are extant) he waged war on a world which he felt with some justice had done him wrong.
He was born William Claude (a name he loathed) and fled home when he was 12 having knocked his father out cold in the barn. He became a superb juggler, touring the world and then entered the films with Sally of the Sawdust. He made two reelers for Mack Sennett, then with infinite guile negotiated with Paramount, which installed him as writer, star and unoffical director of a number of brilliant malevolent comedies, which include ‘It’s a gift’ and ‘The man on the flying Trapeze’. His languid rasping delivery was unique. Fields was a conman of genius out to bilk the society which habitualy cheated the lesser men. He feared death ‘that fellow in the bright night gown’. Unto his last he remained true to his mask. Visitors waiting at the bed of the dying man for the pickings, got spitted up. He died on a day for which he had a life-long distaste, for its sentimentality and synthetic good cheer – Christmas Day.