W. C. Fields: A Biography

W. C. Fields: A Biography

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 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.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940013218642
Publisher: James Curtis
Publication date: 10/03/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 593
File size: 15 MB
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About 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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