The Ever-Subversive WC Fields

Martin Chilton writes: ‘WC Fields, a most defiantly disreputable comedian, has fallen out of the public consciousness, but the 75th anniversary of his masterpiece film “The Bank Dick” seems like a good time to salute one of the 20th-century’s most original comic talents. Fields was doing Python-esq things long before Python, admits John Cleese. William Claude Dukenfield has not been entirely forgotten since his grim alcoholic’s death on Christmas Day in 1946, aged 66, of course. He is one of the faces on the cover of iconic album Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and he even pops up in an episode of “The Sopranos”: Tony does an imitation of Fields after watching “The Bank Dick.” Cleese believes that Fields “had the courage and brilliance to make riskier and more profound jokes than Chaplin and Keaton,” and that’s certainly true of the subversive humour of The Bank Dick.’

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