“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.” –W.C. Fields

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As far back as I can recall, I’ve been a fanatic fan/addict of the great comedy stars of the 1920s to early 40s: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, The Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy — and the most irascible of them all, Wm. Claude Dukenfield (better known as W.C. Fields). On this, his birthday, I mean to stay awake, have a Fields day with this post, and drink a toast to the man who “Once during Prohibition, was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water”….and also contrived to “gargle with whiskey several times a day, and I haven’t had a cold in years.”

Fields was born April 9, 1879 in Philadelphia. Although he ran away from home at an early age, he thought often of his hometown. For example , many years later, he remarked that “Last week, I went to Philadelphia, but it was closed.” On another occasion, he said “I once spent a year in Philadelphia–I think it was on a Sunday.” Asked what he wanted for the epitaph on his tombstone, he replied “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” To prove it, here’s his last request (about 50 seconds into this trailer):

According to film historian Raymond Rohauer, “Fields always presented himself on screen as a braggart, a windbag, and a schemer–and perpetually in need of or in search for a drink. And if he happened to have emerged from his perennial fight with a hostile world, then surely it was by accident. Still, the audience sympathized with him, not because of any hectic antics, but because he was invariably surrounded by such repulsive villains and sheer imbeciles that his own vices appeared, if not necessarily endearing, at least comparatively acceptable.”

Earlier, we touched on Fields’ “last words.” In the spirit(s) of this celebration, we close with more quotes to pour over:

I never worry about being driven to drink; I just worry about being driven home.”

What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?”

Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snake bite, and furthermore always carry a small snake.”

A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her.”

It is hard to lose a mother-in-law. Almost impossible.”

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

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again; then quit–there’s no use being a damn fool about it.”

Start every day off with a smile and get it over with.”

If I had my life to live over, I’d live over a saloon.”

The world is getting to be such a dangerous place, a man is lucky to get out of it alive.”

Fields didn’t get out of it alive — but luckily, the words of his war with the world did….and even in Philadelphia, that’s PA (pretty acceptable).