W.C. Fields

The life and work of one of America’s great cultural figures was explored in bounteous and munificent detail in the Academy’s Fourth Floor Gallery exhibition bearing the full Fieldsian title of: “The Amazing Peregrinations & Pettifoggery of One William Claude Dukenfield, late of Philadelphia, Pa., familiarly known to Crowned Heads and Hoi Polloi alike as W.C. Fields.”

Celebrating the donation by the Fields family of the renowned humorist’s personal papers to the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library, the exhibition presented a historical, biographical and geographical survey of W.C. Fields’s remarkable career by drawing from a trove of personal memorabilia – including items never before seen outside the Fields family.

Behind the stereotype of a liquor-swilling, dog-and-child-hating curmudgeon who would “never give a sucker an even break” was a complex and talented man whose image often obscured the richness of his comedic art. The Academy exhibition drew aside the curtain of legend to reveal an intimate portrait of the larger-than-life character that was W.C. Fields, and to pay tribute to the man known to his choice circle of friends simply as “Bill.”

Among the original vaudeville posters, personal photographs and letters, film clips and other artifacts on display in the gallery were timeless quips and quotes from the comedic master:

“As a boy in Philadelphia, I had neighbors named Fushwantz and Muckle. So I have used them in the movies. I remember Fushwantz owned a goat that he would never let me ride.”

“Women are like elephants to me. I like to look at ’em, but I wouldn’t want to own one.”

“Squeemudgeon: Director who calls an actor down to the studio at 8 a.m., and doesn’t use him till 11.”

“When doctors and undertakers meet they always wink at each other.”

“As my dear old grandfather Litvak said, just before they sprung the trap, ‘You can’t cheat an honest man; never give a sucker an even break or smarten up a chump.’”

Bank Dick

“The Bank Dick”

It's a Gift

On the set of “It’s a Gift”

Set Design

Poppy