W.C. Fields: A Wit For The Ages

By | June 24, 2019

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Actor W.C. Fields in a scene from the movie The Old Fashioned Way Directed by: William Beaudine USA 1934. Source: (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

One of Vaudeville, Broadway, and Hollywood’s first-star comedian, W.C. Fields was known for his persona of an anti-good guy—a hard-drinking, kid-hating, womanizing, curmudgeon—that made him all the more likable and relatable to his audiences. Paired with the fabulous and gorgeous Mae West, Fields was not overshadowed by the buxom blonde. We will remember many of Fields’s quippy one-liners today…most of them are just as relevant today as they were about 100 years ago. Let’s look back at the rags to riches story of one of entertainment’s first funnymen. 

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W.C. Fields as a young man. Source: (pinterest.com)

A Rough Childhood

Born in 1880 in Philadelphia, the name on W.C. Fields’s birth certificate read William Claude Dunkenfield. Fields was the oldest of five children. His father, a raging alcoholic, was an immigrant with a thick Cockney accent named James Dunkenfield. W.C. Fields only attended school for about four years, then his father made him leave school to help him sell vegetables from a cart—the family’s only source of income.