W. C. Fields' catch phrases
Bapopik at AOL.COM
Bapopik at AOL.COM
Fri Sep 3 08:28:47 UTC 1999
W. C. Fields (William Claude Dukenfield, 1879-1946) is certainly no
obscure film comedian, but his catch phrases have been poorly recorded.
I did NOT find "First prize one week in Philadelphia...second prize two
weeks in Philadelphia" in any of the books I read. Did he say it on Fred
Allen's radio show? I did not go through the W. C. Fields clipping file in
the Performing Arts Library (or the Fred Allen file)--it's probably large,
with clippings on every film.
The Museum of Television and Radio (www.mtr.org or .com) is located at
25 West 52 Street, right next to 21 West 52 Street and the "21" Club. As
I've said before, the quantity of stuff and the indexing leaves a lot to be
desired; I have never found the MTR to be useful for researching words and
phrases. I checked the Fred Allen show (only a small portion of the shows
were here) and W. C. Fields. There were only about three hits for Fields on
tv or radio, but they weren't for Fred Allen's show. Also, a Fields
bibliography that I read had his radio appearances--without mentioning the
Fred Allen show.
The American Film Institute's National Film Information Service (in Los
Angeles) provides information for a fee--I haven't yet tried them for W. C.
I went through these books:
GODFREY DANIELS!: VERBAL AND VISUAL GEMS FROM THE SHORT FILMS OF W. C. FIELDS
W. C. Fields, DRAT!
W. C. Fields, I NEVER MET A KID I LIKED (These three books are compilations
of his quotations with photos from his films)
Simon Louvish, MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE
Nicholas Yanni, W. C. FIELDS
David Rocks, W. C. FIELDS--AN ANNOTATED GUIDE
Wes D. Gehring, W. C. FIELDS--A BIO-BIBLIOGRAPHY
William K. Everson, THE ART OF W. C. FIELDS
GODFREY DANIELS!--A euphemism for "God damn!" The RHHDAS has four cites
under "Godfrey"--1863-60, 1868, 1963-64, and 1977. Only the 1977 citation
has "Godfrey Daniel." Fields is not mentioned! I'm not sure exactly what
films he used it in--I think it's in both THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER (1932) and
IT'S A GIFT (1934), and maybe more. "Godfrey Daniel!" certainly makes at
least one appearance in MY LITTLE CHICKADEE (1940).
DRAT!--The title to one of the books above. It was used in MAN ON THE FLYING
NIBLICK--This word was used in THE DENTIST (1932), from the book GODFREY
DANIELS! It was also used in THE GOLF SPECIALIST (1930), according to the
book THE ART OF W. C. FIELDS. "Niblick" is not in the RHHDAS.
SCONCE--"Papa will bust your sconce" is in THE BARBER SHOP (1933), from the
book GODFREY DANIELS! (RHHDAS ?)
CROOKED AS A DOG'S HIND LEG--This phrase was recently used by the New York
Post to refer to the Clinton Administration. It's on pg. 54 of DRAT!,
attributed to the film TILLIE & GUS (1933).
ANYTHING WORTH HAVING IS WORTH CHEATING FOR--From MY LITTLE CHICKADEE (1940).
ANY MAN WHO HATES CHILDREN CAN'T BE ALL BAD--DRAT! states "newspaper
article." Fields said lots of things like this; it was the theme of a dinner
in his honor in 1939. The quote by Leo Rosten sometimes reads "hates
children and dogs." In the famous painting on Hollywood Boulevard of the
Hollywood stars, Fields is shown with a dog and a kid!
AND IT AIN'T A FIT NIGHT OUT FOR MAN OR BEAST--From the film THE FATAL GLASS
OF BEER (1932).
IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED, TRY, TRY AGAIN. THEN QUIT. NO USE BEING A
DAMN FOOL ABOUT IT--DRAT! (pg. 106) has "newspaper interview."
I'D RATHER HAVE TWO GIRLS AT 21 EACH THAN ONE GIRL AT 42--DRAT! (pg. 34) has
"IS THIS A GAME OF CHANCE?""NOT THE WAY I PLAY IT. NO."--From MY LITTLE
SO'S YOUR OLD MAN (1926), LOVE 'EM AND LEAVE 'EM (1926?), NEVER GIVE A SUCKER
AN EVEN BREAK (1941)--Film titles that popularized phrases but didn't coin
The following (all without citations) are in the book I NEVER MET A KID I
Your line is "goo, goo." Don't muff it.
All dressed up like an open grave.
My little rocky mountain canary.
My dove, my little chickadee, my glow worm.
(To a kid) Later, I'll take you outside and let you ride piggy back on a
Go sit on a post hole.
Go out in the traffic and play. (I think Joan Rivers also used this "Go
play in traffic!" line.)
She was built like a brick chickenhouse.
Jumping spotted swordfish. (Not in the RHHDAS "jumping" oaths.)
He had a nasty fall. I think it scrambled his adenoids.
On the whole, I'd rather haven been in Philadelphia. (Recorded by
several books, such as AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN QUOTATIONS,
listed as his attributed epitaph, 1946.)
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