Internet Accuracy Project

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Artificial Heart Invention
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W.C. Fields

W.C. Fields was an American actor/writer/comedian of My Little Chickadee, David Copperfield, The Bank Dick, It's a Gift, Poppy, Man on the Flying Trapeze, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break fame.

Though he often used a pseudonym, he was actually the writer of some of his best films including, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, The Bank Dick, You Can't Cheat an Honest Man, It's a Gift, Man on the Flying Trapeze, The Old Fashioned Way, and My Little Chickadee.

Like many early film and radio stars, Fields first became famous on the vaudeville circuit. His comedy juggling act was a headliner in both North America and Europe. Between 1910 and 1915, he reduced the amount of juggling in his act and began incorporating comedy skits using both sight gags and the verbal humor that would become synonymous with him in his later film career. He became a star on Broadway in 1923 with the Broadway hit, Poppy. This success brought about numerous silent film roles, and started his assent to international movie stardom.

Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: William Claude Dukenfield*

Date and place of birth: January 29, 1880**, Arlington House on the corner of Main and Mill Streets, Darby, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Date, time, place and cause of death: December 25, 1946, at 12:03 p.m., Las Encinas Sanitarium, Pasadena, California, U.S.A. (Cirrhosis of the liver/Pneumonia)

Wife: Harriet Veronica (Hughes) Fields (m. 1900 - December 25, 1946) (his death)
Wedding took place at the Methodist church on Howard Street, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Child: William Claude Fields, Jr. (son)
He supposedly had an illegitimate son, William Rexford Fields Morris, with his girlfriend Bessie Poole.

Father: James Lydon Dukenfield (an innkeeper/bar manager/peddler)
Mother: Kate Felton

Burial site: Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, California, U.S.A.

Error corrections or clarifications

* The Cambridge Factfinder (1993 edition), and a few other sources, erroneously report Fields was born "William Claude Dunkenfield." The correct spelling is Dukenfield.

1880 census records show his name was actually Claude W., not William C. Fields. W.C. Fields himself confirmed he was born Claude William Fields in several interviews, but given his penchant for fictionalizing details of his youth, one might take those confirmations with a grain of salt.

** Fields enjoyed telling many tall tales of his early days, and actually lied about his date of birth (giving "April 9, 1879" as his d.o.b.) in order to get married while still underage. For many years, most reference books reported this erroneous date. Many reference works have now corrected their information to the accurate date of January 29th, 1880. "February 10, 1879" is another of the many erroneous dates of birth that still appear from time to time. The January birth date has been verified by various members of his family on several occasions.

4:45 a.m. has been reported as his time of birth, but there is no substantiation for this time since official birth records no longer exist for Fields.

NOTE: The above date, time and place of death was confirmed by his death certificate. W.C. Fields' cause of death has variously been reported as "kidney failure," and "stomach hemorrhage," but cirrhosis of the liver is listed as the immediate cause of death on his death certificate.

All of the following publications, in some past editions, have offered erroneous birth data on W.C. Fields.

The Cambridge Factfinder (1993 edition)

Chase's Calendar of Events

Daily Celebrity Almanac

The Hammond Almanac

Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia

New York Times Encyclopedic Almanac

Who's Who in America

World Almanac and Book of Facts

The World Almanac Who's Who of Film

It is not our intent to denigrate these fine publications, but merely to point out the above inaccuracy to prevent further dissemination of the erroneous data.

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