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The flavor of green Bourbon over rice October 4, 2007

Posted by Jeff in 1929 through WWII, Movies, Vaudeville.

In The Old-Fashioned Way (1934), W. C. Fields plays the most villainous role of his career …

… a theatrical manager.

Below, the greatest theatrical juggler of the twentieth century.

Here’s a notion to kick around: W. C. Fields is America’s answer to Yasujiro Ozu.

Fields, the star of The Bank Dick, and Ozu, the Japanese director of Tokyo Story, share more than just a famous enthusiasm for strong drink. Though their films take place on opposite sides of the world, their settings are remarkably similar. Fields and Ozu are two of the cinema’s great chroniclers of the lower middle class. Their typical heroes are office workers or minor functionaries who struggle quietly to hang on to their jobs or small businesses, share cramped homes with multigenerational families and must endure the endless demands of domineering wives (Fields) or interfering siblings (Ozu).

Most revealingly, there is their recurring theme of the widower (Chishu Ryu in Ozu’s films), devoted to raising a lovely, lonely daughter, the only member of the family who loves and respects him. The dramatic fulcrum often rests on the question of whether and how to step aside, liberating the dutiful daughter to pursue her own happiness.

— Dave Kehr, New York Times, 3/20/2007

Field’s true feelings about theatrical managers can be deduced by the fact that he was a founding member of the Actors Equity Association and a fierce supporter of the union in its 1919 Broadway strike.

Fields is a character in my original screenplay, Equity.

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