W. C. Fields

American comedian, actor, juggler and writer (1880–1946)

W. C. Fields (29 January 1880 – 25 December 1946), born William Claude Dukenfield, was an American actor, comedian and juggler.

Never give a sucker an even break.

Quotes edit

  • Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.
    • This was an epitaph Fields proposed for himself in a 1925 article in Vanity Fair. It refers to his long standing jokes about Philadelphia (his actual birthplace), and the grave being one place he might actually not prefer to be. This is often repeated as "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.", or "All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." which he might have stated at other times. It has also sometimes been distorted into a final dig at Philadelphia: "Better here than in Philadelphia." Fields' actual tomb at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California simply reads "W. C. Fields 1880–1946".
  • Never give a sucker an even break.
    • According to Collier's (28 November 1925), Fields is said to have used this line as early as 1923 in the musical comedy play Poppy. It became the title of one of his films in 1941 and Fields' character also spoke this line in the sound film version of Poppy (1936) and in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1940).
  • And it ain't a fit night out for man nor beast.
    • The Fatal Glass of Beer (1933). Fields adapts an English proverb that was popular in the 17th century. (James Howell, English Proverbs (1659): "When the wind is in the east it is good for neither man nor beast"; John Ray, English Proverbs (1670): "When the wind's in the East, It's neither good for man nor beast." In rhyming "east" with "beast" the proverb refers to weather patterns in the British isles.)
  • She's all dressed up like a well-kept grave.
  • Who knows what's funny?
    • As quoted in "One Word More: Liberalism Can Be a Bit Confusing" by Ralph McGill, in The Atlanta Constitution (14 August 1938)
  • I'd rather have two girls at twenty-one each, than one girl at forty-two.
  • Some contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch ...
  • Whilst traveling through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew. Had to live on food and water for several days.
  • If a thing is worth having, it's worth cheating for.
  • Was I in here last night and did I spend a twenty-dollar bill? (the bartender replies: Yes) Oh, what a load is off my mind. I thought I LOST it! it[1][2][3][4]
  • I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I'm so indebted to her for. (Variant: 'Twas a woman who drove me to drink. I never had the courtesy to thank her.)
  • [To a waitress]] I didn't squawk about the steak, dear. I merely said I didn't see that old horse that used to be tethered outside here.
  • I never voted for anybody. I always voted against.
    • As recounted by Robert Lewis Taylor in W.C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes
    • Variant: I never vote for anyone; I always vote against.
  • Back in my rummy days, I would tremble and shake for hours upon arising. It was the only exercise I got.
  • Don't say you can't give up drinking. It's easy. I've done it a thousand times.
    • The Temperance Lecture
  • The story goes that a polite young lady journalist invited him to lunch at Chasen's in hope of a story. Lunch in his case was a liquid affair, and left him uncommunicative. Noticing the passion with which he shooed away the hovering waiter with the ice water jug, she seized an opening. "Mr. Fields, could you tell me the reason for your well-known aversion to water?" "Delighted, my dear," he replied with suddenly increased bonhomie. "Never touch the stuff—very unhealthy. Fish fuck in it."
  • It was a woman who drove me to drink—and you know, I never bothered to thank her.
    • Quoted in Newsweek (November 27, 1972), p. 52
  • No water—I never touch water. Fish make love in it.
    • Quoted in Newsweek (November 27, 1972), p. 52

Misattributed edit

  • Anyone who hates children and dogs can't be all bad.
    • Although very commonly attributed to Fields, this is derived from a statement that was actually first said about him by Leo Rosten during a "roast" at the Masquer's Club in Hollywood in 1939, as Rosten explains in his book, The Power of Positive Nonsense (1977) "The only thing I can say about W. C. Fields ... is this: Any man who hates dogs and babies can't be all bad."
    • Variant: Anyone who hates babies and dogs can't be all bad.
  • If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.
    • The earliest source found in Google Books dates from 1958, and does not attribute it to W. C. Fields but to a certain "Bill": I said, "What do you do, Bill?" He says "Well, if I can't dazzle them with my brilliance I baffle them with my bull," and doggone if he doesn't. Not found attributed to W. C. Fields until 2005.

Quotes about edit

  • Bill Fields walked in the first day, reeking of liquor. He came over and apologized to me. Understand, I was in awe of his talents. I said, "Mr. Fields, on you it smells like eau de cologne," and he brightened up. A very sweet egomaniac.
    • Margaret Hamilton, recalling a brief conversation on the set of My Little Chickadee; as quoted in Conversations with Classic Film Stars (2016) by James Bawden and Ron Miller, p. 381
  • On the sauce, his saloon talk is wiser than
    My scholar's treatise. On the con, he outwits
    Himself, and yet portrays his downward spiral into
    Beefsteak mines, mansions in the Grampian Hills,
    Dollars falling from a sky blue as a copper chip.
    His mordant eye schemes afresh from every reverse.
    Why this sudden rapport with his profound failure
    To eat ice cream neatly, refill a flask unnoticed,
    Escape the flypaper floor of Baby Leroy's molasses?
    Jargon-mouthed, rum-rank-breathed, reprobate uncle.
    Your legacy of irrascible, bulbous disrepute is
    Far sweeter, I swear, than Phyllis's daffodils.
    W.C., I am staring you in the eye tonight.
    Only the gunning cars and lonely trains
    Punctuate our confrontation, you and I,
    Two confidence men on confidential terms.

External links edit

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