What did the W. C. stand for in American comedian W. C. Fields' name?
W. C. Fields (1880-1946) was an American comic actor who performed on stage, film and radio. His real name was William Claude Dukenfield, and he began his career after running away from home at the age of 11. He initially achieved international success as a silent juggler, before performing in the 'Ziegfeld Follies', an elaborate theatrical show in 1915. On stage, Fields was recognised by his top hat, cutaway coat and cane.
In 1923, Fields starred in the Broadway musical comedy 'Poppy' as a small-time con man. He reprised the role in the film version of the play, 'Sally of the Sawdust', in 1925. This kick-started his career in movies and he went on to star in many more films. One of his biggest roles was the character Mr Micawber in 'David Copperfield' (1935), based on the book by the Victorian author Charles Dickens.
From 1936 onwards, Fields struggled with heavy drinking and subsequent alcohol-related illnesses. By 1938, he was physically unable to star in films. During his recovery period, Fields appeared in radio shows, eventually returning to the screen in 1940. Sadly, he still suffered from bouts of illness and his movie career never regained its height. Instead, Fields concentrated on radio work, but even that proved difficult as his vision and memory deteriorated.
On Christmas Day 1946, Fields suffered a gastric haemorrhage and passed away aged 66. According to a 2004 documentary, Fields winked at a nurse, put a finger to his lips, and died.