Quote of the Day: The Man in the Bright Nightgown

Fields steers his ferryboat for the Western Lands.

“By the close on 1946, W.C. Fields had spent 14 months, the last several drinking only ginger ale, at Las Encinas Sanitarium in Pasadena. The end came as “The Man in the Bright Nightgown” (as W.C. referred to death) paid his call 12:30 p.m. on Christmas Day, 1946. Fields, a hater of Christmas since age eight, was 66 years old.

“The death certificate lists the cause of death as ‘Cirrhosis of the liver’ (duration, five years), due to ‘chronic alcoholism’ (duration unknown).

“[Fields’ mistress] Carlotta Monti later claimed to have comforted the old man to the very end, and that the dying words of W.C. Fields were, ‘Chinaman…Goddamn the whole frigging world and everyone in it but you, Carlotta.’ Ronald J. Fields is convinced by his own research that Carlotta wasn’t there — she was, he claims, with a lover that Christmas day in Santa Barbara. Only W.C.’s secretary Magda Michael and a nurse were present at the time of W.C.’s death.

“‘He brought his forefinger to his lips to signify quiet,’ wrote Ron Fields, ‘winked, then closed his eyes; and “the Man in the Bright Nightgown” took him away.'”

~ from Hollywood’s Hellfire Club by Gregory William Mank with Charles Heard & Bill Nelson.

Will everyone please stop LYING? Neither of those accounts sounds remotely credible to me. But I love Gregory LaCava’s eulogy for his friend ~

“Bil never really wanted to hurt anybody. He just felt an obligation.” 

Incidentally, fans of Fields’ 1934 classic IT’S A GIFT might like to know that dangerous blind man Mr. Muckle is named after a word in the Scots tongue meaning “very large”. The influence of Scotland on Fields is not too be underrated: not only did he seemingly derive his character name in THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY, The Great McGonigle, from Scotland’s greatest bad poet William Topaz McGonagall, but it was here in Edinburgh that he first tasted strong liquor. So I guess we killed him.

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