W.C. Fields was one of the best comedians of all time, and a pretty damned good juggler to boot. Over time and as part of my ongoing search for his work, I've collected a lot of information about Fields and his films, both important and random. Here's some of it.
If you haven't watched much of Fields, I'd suggest finding and renting "It's a Gift." Watch for the point where Fields goes outside on the porch to sleep. Pause the tape and get yourself a sammich and a root beer, then scrunch into that comfy chair. The following ten or fifteen minutes are golden.
A W.C. Fields Filmography
Notes on Some of the Films
A W.C. Fields Roster
Year Tape Film or Short Title Notes Silent films: 1915 X Pool Sharks Short; exists 1915 His Lordship's Dilemma Short; no known print 1924 Janice Meredith Fragments exist 1925 X Sally of the Sawdust Exists 1926 That Royle Girl No known print 1926 It's the Old Army Game Fragments exist 1926 So's Your Old Man May still exist 1927 The Potters No known print 1927 X Running Wild Exists 1927 Two Flaming Youths Status unknown 1928 Tillie's Punctured Romance Status unknown 1928 Fools for Luck Status unknown Sound films: 1930 X The Golf Specialist Short; first sound 1931 Her Majesty, Love May still exist 1932 X Million Dollar Legs 1932 X If I Had a Million 1932 X The Dentist Short 1932 X The Fatal Glass of Beer Short 1933 X The Pharmacist Short 1933 X The Barber Shop Short 1933 Hip Action Short; cameo as golfer 1933 X International House 1933 X Tillie and Gus Remake of Tillie's... 1933 X Alice in Wonderland Cameo as Humpty Dumpty 1934 X Six of a Kind 1934 X You're Telling Me 1934 X The Old Fashioned Way 1934 X Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch In only two reels 1934 X It's a Gift Remake of It's the... 1935 X David Copperfield Cameo as Mr. Micawber 1935 X Mississippi 1935 X Man on the Flying Trapeze 1936 X Poppy Remake of Sally of... 1938 X The Big Broadcast of 1938 Cameos throughout 1939 X You Can't Cheat an Honest Man 1940 X My Little Chickadee 1940 X The Bank Dick 1941 X Never Give a Sucker an Even Break 1942 Tales of Manhattan Cameo cut pre-release 1944 Follow the Boys Cameo as himself 1944 X Song of the Open Road Cameo as himself 1945 Sensations of 1945 Cameo as himself
His Lordship's Dilemma: A lost, one-reel short made by William Haddock, an Edison director. Fields played a remittance man. Ads for the movie show fields swinging a golf club.
Janice Meredith: No complete prints are known to survive. Reviews report that Fields did comedy scenes as a drunken British sergeant.
That Royle Girl: One of few D.W. Griffith films totally missing.
It's the Old Army Game: Only fragments survive. Consisted of older Fields stage skits. All were repeated and improved in later films.
So's Your Old Man: Status is unknown. Sixty-seven minutes long. Played inventor of shatterproof auto glass. Remade as You're Telling Me.
The Potters: No known print. Fields buys worthless oil stock. Changed to orange grove for It's a Gift.
Running Wild: Was remade as Man on the Flying Trapeze.
Two Flaming Youths: Status unknown. The best bits in this film are repeated in The Old Fashioned Way and You Can't Cheat an Honest Man. Said to be poorly produced and directed by a ninkompoop.
Tillie's Punctured Romance: Status unknown. Fifty-seven minutes. Also said to be poorly done.
Fools for Luck: Status unknown. Sixty minutes. Last silent film. Same plot as The Potters, but with Fields role reversed to that of the bilker.
Her Majesty, Love: Status unknown, but apparently available. Fields doesn't appear until 25 minutes into the 75-minute film, and plays a supporting role only.
If I Had a Million: Never released in its original form in the United States. Two scenes were cut: A convicted murderer learns of his windfall too late and goes to the electric chair and a prostitute celebrates her $1 million by sleeping alone in a luxury hotel room. These scenes are now restored in some prints seen on television.
Hip Action: This was the third film in a series entitled "How to Break Ninety." They were Bobby Jones golf shorts and Fields appeared in this one as an inept golfer helped by Jones. This was Fields' only guest-star appearance in a short. The entire series of shorts was released in the late '80s as part of a golf instruction course, but the course cost about $200.
You're Telling Me: Was until only recently unavailable because Paramount's rights had expired as they had never reissued it. MCA, the owners of TV rights of all Paramount's post-1929 films, chose not to go through the trouble required to release this and many other Paramount films.
Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch: Fields didn't appear until the seventh reel and was in just two reels.
The Big Broadcast of 1938: Fields had short appearances and skits throughout this movie. Constantly in the beginning, fewer towards the end.
Tales of Manhattan: Fields appearance in this film was deleted just prior to release. In it, he lectures at a fund-raising charity function. Thieves steal the money raised and stuff it in a jacket. One of them, forgetting about the money, throws the jacket out of their getaway plane. The money floats all over a poor black town. They divide the money evenly; the tattered jacket is put on a scarecrow. Much Uncle Tom-ism and the people are constantly spouting communist slogans (?!). Fox may still have a print of this two-reel sketch.
Follow the Boys: Fields does his pool table sketch in this film. Patriotic, jingoistic, silly sort of propaganda film. One hour, forty-seven minutes.
Fields did a total of forty-two films. All are listed on the first page.
Paramount stills exist from It's the Old Army Game, So's Your Old Man, The Potters, Two Flaming Youths, and Tillie's Punctured Romance. A one-sheet exists of His Lordship's Dilemma.
Most of his films from 1926 to 1929 for Paramount on Long Island were about an hour long.
W.C. Fields on Charlie Chaplin: "He's a goddam ballet dancer. I'd like to strangle him with my bare hands."
His tombstone has his name and dates of birth and death. It does not say "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia," as is commonly believed. That was his answer to a reporter who asked him to write his own epitaph.
Fields invented a lot of goofy names, both for his characters and for his own screenwriting credits (he wrote a large number of his films). Bob Elliot of Bob & Ray once told me that he and Ray came up with most of their character names from people they knew, but I think that probably wasn't the case with Fields, as you may agree after perusing these:
Maharajah of Bingo Algernon Biggleswade Professor Quail Ophelia Snapdrop Sir Marmaduke Gump Og Oggilby Death Valley Scotty Folger E. Bidwell Abigail Twirlbaffing Dorothea Fizzdockle Charles Bogle J. Pinkerton Snoopington Aristotle Hoop Mahatma Kane Jeeves Senor Guillermo McKinley Sneed Hearn High-Card Harrington Carl La Fong Cholmondley Frampton- Marc Antony McGonigle J. Frothingham Waterbury Blythe Rheba Goldberg Bartley Neuville Figley E. Whitesides Anastasia Bel-Goodie Claude Bissinet Dr. Otis Guelpe Lita Labetty Otis Criblecoblis Chief Big Spear Bronislaw Gimp Gus Winterbottom Little Small Blanket Ouliotta Hemoglobin Ambrose Woolfinger Wilkes Heap Filthy McNasty Eustace McGargle Oooleota Dillwig Officer Postlewhistle Hermisilio Brunch Elmer Bimbo Cornelius O'Hare Oglethorpe P. Bushmaster Colonel Roscoe Slemp Cozy Cochran Chester Snavely Sapadola Sidley-Deasey Cleopatra Pepperday A. Pismo Clam Oliotha Shugg Countess de Pouisse Sir Mortimer Fortescue Olga Limbo Egbert Souse Agatha Sprague Fuller Ginnis Cuthbert J. Twillie Larson E. Whipsnade
Entire contents © 1995-2003 by Mike Harney. World rights reserved. Steve Allen, this means you.