W. C. Fields: A Biography

W. C. Fields: A Biography

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by James Curtis
     
 

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The legend of W. C. Fields has persisted for more than half a century--the gin-guzzling misanthrope about whom Leo Rosten famously said, “Any man who hates dogs and babies can’t be all bad.” But there was another Fields, the man behind the character of the red-nosed card sharp, who wrote, directed, and performed in some of the most enduring

Overview

The legend of W. C. Fields has persisted for more than half a century--the gin-guzzling misanthrope about whom Leo Rosten famously said, “Any man who hates dogs and babies can’t be all bad.” But there was another Fields, the man behind the character of the red-nosed card sharp, who wrote, directed, and performed in some of the most enduring comedies of all time, including "It’s a Gift," "My Little Chickadee," and "The Bank Dick."

Fields’ career spanned the whole of the 20th Century--first in burlesque, then vaudeville, the legitimate stage, silent pictures, talkies, radio, books, and recordings, and only death prevented him from moving into the promising medium of television, where he found an entirely new audience in the turbulent 1960s and 70s. He was one of the cultural icons surrounding The Beatles on the cover of "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band." In 1980 he was honored with his own postage stamp.

Now James Curtis reveals the man behind the myth, telling the story of Fields’ life and work as it’s never been told before. With exclusive and unrestricted access to the Great Man’s papers and manuscripts, he shows us the passion and intellect that fueled Fields’ creative drive, and the broken family that gave such a bitter edge to his comedy. Drawing from interviews with over 50 friends and co-workers, as well as the comedian’s own recently-discovered notes for his autobiography, Curtis vividly details Fields’ Philadelphia childhood, his first tentative steps as a performer, his arduous climb to the very pinnacle of show business, and his struggle to regain his footing once talking pictures had seemingly put an end to his career. He also shows the evolution of one of the world’s most recognizable figures, whose nasal voice and shifty mannerisms helped make him, in the words of James Agee, “the toughest and most warmly human of all screen comedians.”

"W. C. Fields" is a singular work of research and scholarship that is certain to stand as the definitive biography of one of America’s greatest humorists.

Editorial Reviews

Jacket Copy - John Cleese
“The definitive book about America’s most profound comedian. James Curtis examines all the myths and stereotypes connected with W.C., and comes up with a fascinating, sympathetic, but utterly convincing picture of a man who was generous yet stingy, who was both a dream and a nightmare to work with, who could be warm or distant, who meticulously planned each word and gesture, and yet who, whatever happened, managed to ad lib something hilarious."
San Francisco Chronicle - Tom Nolan
“Fields’ remarkable career, and the melancholy private life that accompanied it, are chronicled superbly in James Curtis’ vivid and engrossing W.C. Fields. There have been other books about Fields, of course, but none seem so richly detailed nor so scrupulously researched... The result is a fully dimensional portrait that does ample justice to its one-of-a-kind subject."
New York Times - Richard Schickel
“This is by far the fullest, fairest, and finally most touching account of this sad, solipsistic life that we have yet had. Or are likely to have, given that we now live in a world wherein comedy shamelessly, endlessly sues for our affections instead of starkly alienating them.”
The Austin Chronicle - Will Sheff
"Aching with real pain but never demanding sympathy, Curtis’ loving evocation of W.C. Fields is fascinating, heartbreaking, and very funny indeed.”
Cineaste - Robert Cashill
“It is to the credit of biographer James Curtis, author of esteemed volumes on directors James Whale and Preston Sturges, that in this new volume he slices through the flab of fiction and finds a stronger, more compelling, and infinitely more poignant vein of fact."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013218642
Publisher:
James Curtis
Publication date:
10/03/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
593
Sales rank:
181,269
File size:
15 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

JAMES CURTIS is the author of W.C. Fields: A Biography, which was awarded the Special Jury Prize by the Theatre Library Association and named one of the Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times. He is also the author of Spencer Tracy: A Biography," "James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters," and "Between Flops," an acclaimed biography of writer-director Preston Sturges. He is married and lives in Brea, California.

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