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W. C. Fields: A Biography

W. C. Fields: A Biography
Your Price: $49.99 CDN
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Author: James Curtis
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Format: Hardcover
# of Pages: 593
Pub. Date: 2003
ISBN-10: 0375402179
ISBN-13: 9780375402173

About the Book:

"The definitive book about America's most profound comedian." — John Cleese

The legend of W. C. Fields has persisted for more than half a century – the gin-guzzling misanthrope about whom author and screenwriter 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.

W. C. Fields was one of the cultural icons surrounding The Beatles on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and in 1980 he was honoured with his own postage stamp.

Biographer James Curtis reveals the man behind the myth, telling the story of W. C. 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 fuelled 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-rediscovered 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.

James Curtis 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 screenwriter and film critic James Agee, "the toughest and most warmly human of all screen comedians."

What people say:

"This is by far the fullest, fairest, and finally most touching account of this sad, solipsistic life that we have yet had." — New York Times Book Review

"Curtis fluently traces the entire arc of Fields' messy, overstuffed life. The details are irresistible... he does an excellent job detailing the meticulous craftsmanship and relentless hard work through which Fields, who began his career as a mute juggler in vaudeville, became a comedian renowned for his verbal dexterity." — The New Yorker

"There have been other books about Fields, of course, but none seem so richly detailed nor so scrupulously researched... W. C. Fields is a joy to read, a masterful biography, perfectly paced and full of fine surprises." — San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author:

James Curtis is an American biographer. Born in Los Angeles, he spent twenty-five years as a senior executive in the insurance and computer industries before turning full-time to writing about important figures from the early days of film.