Wednesday, July 21, 2021

"Juggling Bill" Fields Becomes a Straight Comedian -- July 21, 2021


New York Tribune, 24-July-1921

After a long career in vaudeville, WC Fields made his film debut in 1915, but then returned to the stage and the Ziegfeld Follies. He did not appear in another movie until 1924. This article claims that Fields did not drop the juggling from his act until 1921. Could be.

"Juggling Bill"
Fields Becomes a
Straight Comedian

For years -- at least long before the coming of the Volstead law -- W. C. Fields hiccupped his inebriate way in and out of the scenes of Ziegfeld's annual summer pleasantry, "The Follies," juggling hats, canes, tennis balls, golf balls, hat racks, plates, dishes and cigar boxes. He was a fixture, and every year he had a surprise for Broadway audiences.

This year at the Globe, where "The Follies" is playing, Mr. Fields is revealed as a straight comedian. He does not juggle a single juggle. Fields has always been a comedian, but he didn't know it until Mr. Ziegfeld suggested to him that he was just as good without his juggling as he was with it.

"Anyway, Bill, I'm going to try you at it," Mr. Ziegfeld told Fields six months ago. And Fields was glad to be relieved of the grind of juggling rehearsals, but he approached his new sphere with great misgivings. He didn't think he could do it. But he did.

Just now Fields does not believe he will ever go back to juggling, but of course he will, for juggling, as any juggler will tell you, is a sort of habit-forming industry -- once started, you juggle all your life.

Fields began to juggle at the age of eight. He has juggled around the world, appearing at various times in London, Berlin, Paris, Melbourne, New Zealand, China, Japan and Cuba. He first ran away with a circus, but his parents yanked him back when he was two days out. He had hired out as assistant to a cannon ball juggler when his parents wanted him to study law.

Fields finally did take a job in a drugstore, sweeping out and running errands and waiting on customers when the boss went to dinner.

One day the boss returned, walked behind the prescription case, and then his hair did a splendid imitation of a comedy fright wig. It stood on end. Fields was juggling three bottles of powerful acids. When the druggist crept out and walked around the block expecting to return to find his assistant beyond human help he found him instead, at the cigar counter juggling cigar boxes.

That ended Fields's career as a pharmacist, and after playing a few small-time vaudeville houses he went to Europe. It was in Paris that Ziegfeld first saw him and put him in "The Follies." where he has been for eight years.

In the present edition of that summer revue Fields is showing that he is a real straight comedian. In the scene with Raymond Hitchcock, Ray Dooley and Fannie Brice he holds up his end of the fun-making with them all.

"It is a great relief," says Fields, "to get away from juggling for just one season. I had to keep practicing at least six hours a day. I had to keep the hours of an athlete, and, all in all, it was a tough existence. I feel that I am at last having a real vacation."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment moderation is turned on. Your message will appear after it has been reviewed.