The first biography in decades (and the only accurate one) of the comic genius behind Larson E. Whipsnade, Egbert Souse, Eustace McGargle, and other immortal examples of the American male at bay. Everyone seems to know the story of W. C. Fields, the curmudgeon of classic film comedy--his Dickensian childhood in Philadelphia, the numerous bank accounts opened around the world under outlandish names, and so on. All entertaining--and all completely untrue. Simon Louvish's meticulously researched and wonderfully entertaining biography is the first one to disentangle the facts from the pack of lies and myths mischievously nurtured by Fields himself. Louvish lovingly traces the origin of Fields's comedy in his self-authored vaudeville sketches and follows his progress from the stage (where he was renowned as the world greatest juggler) to silent screen to the talkies--including such howlingly funny films as The Bank Dick, My Little Chickadee, and You Can't Cheat an Honest Man. He highlights his tragic struggles against studio heads, censorship, alcoholism, and illness--in the course of which he created some of the greatest gems of film humor. Man on the Flying Trapeze is the story of an artist whose finest creation was himself--a fully achieved, imaginary person who finally subsumed his creator, to the immense benefit of us all.
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Simon Louvish is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels. He teaches film at the London International Film School and writes frequently about the Golden Age of comedy.Review:
Louvish does a heroic job of filling in Fields's life. -- New York Times Book Review, Katharine Whittemore
Mr. Louvish, who teaches at the London International Film School, must have worked long and hard on this biography of W. C. Fields. Fields was a superb comedian, but he was also a mischievous, amusing, and habitual liar. The hard-drinking curmudgeon who hated babies, kicked dogs, and stashed money in unlikely places under fantastic aliases was a deliberate invention, except for the drinking. Fields's biographer is faced with the problem of replacing entertaining fantasy with mere fact, and Mr. Louvish surmounts it very well indeed, with histories of vaudeville (Fields began as a juggler), of the extravagancies of Ziegfeld Follies, and of the uncertainties of early movie-making, while enlivening his text with effective quotations and sketches of everyone concerned--a gallery of great clowns. The reader gets a sound view of Fields and of his world. -- The Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams
Simon Louvish ... teaches at the London International Film School, and in Man on the Flying Trapeze he nicely regales us with many vaudevillian stories.... Louvish tells us less about Fields's films. This is a flaw, though admittedly the more famous ones have been much parsed, and many of the smaller ones are now lost. Still, there are the stories. -- The New York Times Book Review, Katharine Whittemore
Simon Louvish, who is too young and too English to understand the narrow and unforgiving America that shaped (and outraged) Fields and is too dull-witted to imagine it ... [reduces] the profoundly authentic misanthropy of a figure he inexplicably adores into mere curmudgeonliness, which he appears to think will play better in our squishier age. A writer of astonishing ineptitude--are there no editors left who check usage and syntax?--he's also the kind of biographer who thinks that if he notes who was in the White House at a turning point in his subject's life, he has discharged his obligations to social history. -- Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, Richard Shickel
This dogged biography of the irascible, bulbous-nosed comic sweeps away the myth of his hardscrabble youth, cruel father, and life as a bitter, unfriendly star steeped in isolation and alcohol. (Well, the bit about the alcohol is true.).... Man on the Flying Trapeze does what an artist's biography should do: It makes you itch to view his work again (in this case, classics like The Bank Dick and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break). -- Entertainment Weekly
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Book Description W W Norton & Co Inc, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0393041271
Book Description W W Norton & Co Inc, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0393041271
Book Description W W Norton & Co Inc, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110393041271
Book Description W W Norton & Co Inc. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0393041271 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0129471