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W. C. Fields: A Biography

Curtis, James

Verlag: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003
ISBN 10: 0375402179 / ISBN 13: 9780375402173
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Titel: W. C. Fields: A Biography

Verlag: Alfred A. Knopf

Erscheinungsdatum: 2003

Einband: Hardcover

Zustand: New


Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: "I can say without fear of contradiction that James Curtis has written the definitive biography of my grandfather. Thanks to an incredible depth of research and insight, we can now meet the real W. C. Fields." --Ron Fields, grandson of W.C. Fields. Buchnummer des Verkäufers ABE_book_new_0375402179

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Inhaltsangabe: Before he ever made a movie or spoke a word onstage, W. C. Fields was one of the greatest pantomimists and comedians in the world. His career spanned the whole of the twentieth century?in burlesque, vaudeville, the legitimate stage, silent pictures, talkies, radio, books, and recordings. Only death prevented him from working in television.

He shared the vaudeville stage with Sarah Bernhardt and Houdini; he made a command performance before Edward VII; he was compared to Chaplin and Keaton and became one of the great comedians in radio. He wrote, directed, and performed (Mae West and Fields were among the first writer/actor/directors) in some of the most enduring and brilliant comedies of all time, including It?s a Gift, My Little Chickadee, and The Bank Dick. He appeared in fifty pictures and wrote fifteen of them. His understanding of the need to lie and swindle, and his ability to make the most innocent phrase sound lewd, made him a star.

Now James Curtis tells the story of Fields? life and work. Drawing on Fields? papers and manuscripts, he shows us the passion and intellect that fueled Fields? talent and the background that gave such bite and edge to his comedy. Curtis shows us, in illuminating detail, just how Fields? extraordinary art evolved on the stage in the early part of the twentieth century and how he not only incorporated it into his films, but how it came to define his persona decades later.

He writes of Fields? hardscrabble Philadelphia childhood; of his father, a drunken breaker of horses who beat his son; of Fields? clever hands that were quick to master stealing and juggling (he took up the latter?it allowed him to sleep late); of his years in burlesque and minstrelsy; of his seventeen years in vaudeville, hopping trains early on, living a life half in the theater, half on the lam, making his way into the big time, never satisfied with his ?act,? always working on something newer and more striking. Curtis writes of Fields? starring years with the Ziegfeld Follies, finding his voice and his character amid one of the greatest assemblages of comic talent on a single stage (Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, among others); appearing in every Ziegfeld show from 1915 through 1921; of his marriage to a fellow performer, the birth of their son, and their travels together on the Circuit, until Mrs. Fields decided she?d had enough and left?the theater and her marriage. Fields never again loved so deeply.

We see Fields? extraordinary work in the movies, both silent pictures in New York (first directed by D. W. Griffith in the starring role in Sally of the Sawdust, which Fields created on Broadway in Poppy) and in the talkies from 1927 to 1945.

Curtis? biography narrates the life and the art of the actor James Agee called ?the toughest and most warmly human of all screen comedians.?

Rezension: James Curtis's W.C. Fields is the finest biography of the bulb-nosed comedian ever published, allowing the real Fields (1880-1946) to emerge after decades of obfuscation. Fields was always presumed to be the same boozy, child-hating curmudgeon that he played on stage and screen, but Curtis (author of acclaimed biographies of directors Preston Sturges and James Whale) shows us a multidimensional Fields who triumphed in every facet of show business from vaudeville and Broadway to radio and film. A world-class juggler, Fields (born William Claude Dukenfield, in Philadelphia) honed his act for each new venue, evolving out of necessity as silent movies gave way to the advent of sound. As Fields enjoys the luxuries of Hollywood stardom, the pleasure of Curtis's book grows glamorously infectious.

This is also the semi-tragic story of a sickly alcoholic, prevented by Catholic restriction from divorcing his second wife, resulting in decades of estrangement from his only legitimate son. This lends poignancy to Fields that his comedy rarely revealed, but for every episode of bitter resentment, Curtis offers touching evidence of Fields's personal and professional generosity. Domestic passages are most revealing, both melancholy (for Fields, idleness was misery) and hilarious (as when he wages war on aggressive swans near his lakefront estate). Curtis also sets the record straight on Fields's numerous bank accounts, love affairs, and other Fields-related legends. As a biographer's act of compassion, Curtis chooses a perfect (and perfectly devastating) posthumous detail to end this remarkable book, essentially reuniting Fields with the family he never really had. If all comedy is born of pain, Curtis proves that Fields was the consummate comedian. --Jeff Shannon

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