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Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States

My name is Pat and I live in Florida. My skin will never be smooth again and my hair will never see color. I enjoy collecting autographs and playing in Paint Shop Pro.,along with reading and writing. Sometimes, I enjoy myself by doing volunteer "work" helping celebrities at autograph shows. I love animals and at one time I did volunteer work for Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Man on the Flying Trapeze

Man on the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields by Simon Louvish.
Paperback: 574 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (March 1, 1999)
ISBN-10: 0393318400 


From Kirkus Reviews
The first serious biography of the legendary comedian in nearly 50 years, and one worthy of its hero. Even people who have never seen a W.C. Fields film probably know him as a man who loved to drink and hated dogs and children. Most likely, they would assume that the onscreen character and the offscreen man were one and the same. But Louvish, in his lively biography, delves beneath the surface and discovers an artist who carefully built this character as a comic construct. The real Fields had nothing against dogs, and, yes, even enjoyed the company of children. (The drinking, however, was authentic.) Louvish, who teaches at the London International Film School, is clearly a Fields fan, and this lends his book a warmth uncommon in show- business biographies. He aims the book at his fellow fans, and uses a chatty, conversational tone: sharing stories and trading opinions and favorite gags over some Fieldsian libation. But the tone doesn't hide the exceptional research he has done. He vividly paints the details of Fields's life and the vaudeville, film, and radio worlds he moved in. Most importantly, in extensively describing Fields's early career, he presents the classic films not as the solitary miracles they appear to be, but as the culmination of an extensive career that saw Fields a major star on the world stage as early as the turn of the century. Louvish is also a novelist (The Silencer, 1993), and in the book's coda (in which he imagines Fields entering heaven and greeting his vaudevillean friends), he demonstrates that even the hokiest of concepts can be moving when presented with passion and commitment. He concludes with a brief but sharply perceived analytical afterword. At last ``the Great Man'' (as Fields called himself, accurately) has a great biography.

Ok, I know, I know... I read things no one else wants to read, but I can't help it when it comes to Simon Louvish, he's just a phenomenal author.

W.C. Fields is not an all time favorite actor of mine, although when I was young and his movies played on tv I did see a number of them.  But Simon Louvish must have a love affair with that era because in his Biographies he manages to make you feel you are there and that you know the person he is writing about.

I think W.C. was an all time favorite of Louvish's.  It's a long book and I will admit there were times I felt it got "long in the tooth" because he would put in *verbatim*, parts of Fields's dialogues in his movies or stage appearances, and that part didn't hold my attention as much as the rest of the book.  Still, I find him a compelling author .

I actually put some markers in the book to jot down some small parts for you to enjoy:
"Duffy and Sweeney are drinking steadily at a bar, until suddenly, without warning, Sweeney keels over on the floor.  Duffy, without batting an eye, continued to swig his drink, commenting: I like a man who knows when to stop."

Here is where I tell you that other than his heavy drinking, much of what one thinks they know about W.C. Fields is probably wrong.

..a paragraph on page 181..
Nearly all of my successful songs have been  based on the idea that I am getting the worst of it. I am the "Jonah Man," the man who, even if it rained soup, would be found with a fork in his hand and no spoon in sight, the man whose fighting relatives come to visit him and whose head is always dented by the furniture they throw at each other... Troubles are only funny when you pin them to one particular individual.  And that individual, the fellow who is the goat, must be the man who is singing the song or telling the story.
..a Will Rogers quote..

"Congress is so strange.  A man gets up to speak and says nothin'. Nobody listens. Then everybody disagrees. or "Don't worry if a man kicks you from behind, it only proves you're ahead of him".

... page 390... talking about his part in David Copperfield.
Playing a beloved classic, the irascible Fields was a veritable lamb in the hands of director George Cukor.  A number of ad-lib scenes involving high jinks with a bathroom razor were apparently filmed, but lost in the cutting room.  Fields was working among some of the best talent in Hollywood, Lionel Barrymore, Elsa Lanchester, Basil Rathbone and Roland  Young as the definitively  'umble Uriah Heep, although his own scenes were pretty self-contained and completed in about ten days.

... a tidbit about the man himself.. page 410..
Here he returned to his hobby of gardening, with particular attention to flowers, his passion for which he was at great pains to hide from posterity.  At a later date Gene Fowler would chronicle his occasional habit of sticking notes addressed to his rosebushes on his personal billboard: "Bloom, you bastards! Bloom!" 

For whatever reason Louvish's Biographies are always long! lol.. but in the end, I'm always glad for it.  He is surely an author I have to admit to enjoying over and over again.  I have certainly found that: if you like the era you will like his biographies!


Blogger Debi said...

"Ok, I know, I know... I read things no one else wants to read..." LOL, Pat! You know, I'm pretty darn sure I won't read this book, but it doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading what you had to say about it!

2:03 PM  
Blogger Cath said...

What a lovely review, Pat. Adored the quotes, especially, 'I like a man who knows when to stop'. That made me laugh. I need to try Louvish's books I think. he wrote the Laurel and Hardy book didn't he? The one you liked so much? Maybe that would be a good place to start. And I think it's good to read books no one else reads... you get to introduce us to something new, which is always a good thing. Well done, Sis.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I'm not usually a huge fan of biographies but this one sounds good even if some parts are a bit long. My mom LOVES biographies so I will recommend this one to her. I really can't say that I know anything about W.C. Fields!

5:08 PM  
Blogger Liss said...

Hi there. My name is Melissa (I go by Liss in the blog world). I was doing some research on DeForest Kelley and came across your blog posts from several years ago when you were trying to convince Paramount to do a new Star Trek movie with the original cast. I enjoyed your antics ;)

This is going to sound like a strange request, but I'm in the market for a genuine autograph of Mr. Kelley's, for my friend who's a big fan. I've found a few items that I think are probably authentic, but was wondering if you would be willing to take a look at them for me and provide your opinion or if you knew of a contact who could possibly provide me with an autograph. Thank you.


12:46 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

Liss: I'd be glad to look at what you are thinking of getting and oh yes I know if it's authentic.. but from a picture on the computer I would not know if it's a photo of a signature or the original.. email me at

unfortunately I have but one item with his signature and it's not a photo but an envelope with space stamps on it from 1991 so doubt you'd be interested in that

5:32 AM  

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