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W.C. Fields was born William Claude Dukenfield in Darby, Pennsylvania in 1880. He showed his remarkable talents early, beginning with a juggling act when he was a teen. He left home and worked that act in vaudeville, later traveling to Europe, and appearing on Broadway in 1906. Although he had initially been a non-talking juggler (this helped when he performed in countries where they did not speak English), he started making comic asides in his act, and soon they were a bigger and bigger part of his appeal. In 1915, Fields made the short film, Pool Sharks, where he performed his tricks on a specially made pool table (a routine he performed in the Ziegfeld Follies). He also made another short film that was shown during his Follies Act, His Lordship's Dilemma. But otherwise, Fields spent all his time on his stage act. In 1924, Fields took a minor role in a Marion Davies movie, and that led to two starring roles in movies directed by D.W. Griffith, and suddenly Fields was a major movie star in his mid forties! Fields was one of the few great silent comedians who was able to seamlessly make the transition to sound movies (another was Laurel and Hardy). While he was a great physical slapstick comedian, sound actually added quite a bit to his appeal. In the early 1930s he not only appeared in some marvelous features (Million Dollar Legs, It's a Gift, and many others) but he also made the series of wonderful shorts for Paramount Pictures (The Fatal Glass of Beer, The Dentist, and more). Fields made some great movies in 1939 and 1940 (when he was 60!), You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, My Little Chickadee, and The Bank Dick (where he played Egbert Souse, pronounced "Soo-say"). But he had many ailments related to his alcoholism, and he made just a few film appearances in the early 1940s. When Fields was dying in 1946, the story goes that a friend visited him at the sanitarium where he was staying, and found the lifelong atheist reading a Bible. When asked why, Fields replied, "I'm checking for loopholes"! He passed away in 1946 at the age of 66. Fields made many wonderful movies, but if I had to recommend two to start with, it would be It's a Gift (which includes the great sequence in the store with Mr. Muckle, the nearly blind and deaf old man) and The Bank Dick (which includes the great sequences of Fields being conned into buying the worthless Beefstake Mine stock, and subsequently re-selling it to the hapless Og Oggilby. As Fields tells Og, "Don't be a luddy-duddy! Don't be a mooncalf! Don't be a jabbernowl! You're not one of those, are you?")
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