Frankly, I have a good bit of ambivalence about W. C. Fields and Me. It is an “insider’s” view of life with W. C. Fields, and has many stories and anecdotes that are very amusing and interesting, as well as providing some behind-the-scenes of the making of many of W. C. Fields movies, quotes from his friends, etc. On the other hand, the book is somewhat centered around the author, Carlotta Monti, a minor film actress who appeared with W. C. Fields in several of his movies (Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, Man on the Flying Trapeze) — as well as having been his mistress for the last 14 years of his life.
Much of the book deals (too much, in my opinion) with Ms. Monti — how she met W. C. Fields, how she moved in with him after 4 dates, their frequent squabbles, etc. — she spends an entire chapter of the book trying to justify the role of mistress as ancient and honorable — which detracts from the value of the rest of the book. Not trying to be mean-spirited, but most people reading a biography of W. C. Fields expect to read about W. C. Fields.
Having said that, there is much in the book of value—a look back at Fields’ miserable childhood, which he rarely spoke of;
- his relationships with his film studios, directors, friends, enemies and neighbors
- his generosity and his frugality strangely mixed together
- his off-screen character (like Groucho Marx, he was rarely if ever “out of character” even when off-screen)
- his suspicious nature
- and his abominable treatment of his illegitimate son, who came to visit Fields after the death of the boy’s mother.
All in all, a mixed bag—I rate it 2 clowns on a scale of 5.