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Fields, W.C.

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 5, 2004

(1880-1946)

    Famed vaudeville juggler and comic who appeared in numerous editions of the Ziegfeld Follies, where he made his pool table routines famous. Fields made a career out of playing various hapless misanthropes in the 1930s. As health problems forced a cutback in movie appearances in the late 1930s, he found a career in radio, playing opposite Charlie McCarthy, the creation of Edgar Bergen, on the Chase and Sanborn radio program. His trademarks were his sonorous voice, his love of highfalutin’ words and booze, and his bulbous red nose. The last two were particular targets of jibes by McCarthy.

    Fields and his nose were used quite often in Warner-released cartoons. At Your Service, Madame (Freleng, 1936) features a “W.C. Squeals” pig attempting to con a widow pig out of an inheritance, until one of her sons exposes him. Note the character’s pool-cue style of using the cane to ring the door bell. Cracked Ice (Tashlin, 1938) again features Fields as a pig, this time attempting to separate a St. Bernard dog from his hooch, simultaneously fending off barbs from McCarthy, who is alleged to be in the theatre’s audience.

    Two Freleng cartoons, Little Blabbermouse and Shop, Look and Listen (both 1940) both utilize a W.C. Fields-like mouse, complete with red nose. At one point in Shop, Look and Listen a robotic card cheat is shot by another robot, triggering the observation from the mouse that “it just goes to show you can’t cheat an honest man”. From the motion picture of the same name. Plug. Endquote. You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man was released by Universal in 1939, and starred Fields.

    Slightly less consequential Fields gags are seen in Book Revue (Clampett, 1946), Have You Got Any Castles? (Tashlin, 1938) on the cover of “So Red the Nose”, Porky’s Road Race (Tashlin, 1937) helping out Edna Mae Oliver, A Star is Hatched (Freleng, 1938) twice: once as a traffic cop using his nose as a stop light, and again, using his nose as a studio warning light, also seen with McCarthy here, The Coo-coo Nut Grove (Freleng, 1936) along with a Katherine Hepburn caricature and The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos (Tashlin, 1937) as “W.C. Fieldmouse”.

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