W. C. Fields and The Bar Trailer (1934) 🇺🇸
A Red-Nosed Romeo
Let W.C. goose-step out — and Hollywood’s handsome heroes’ don’t get a tumble
He’s the high-stepping Romeo of Hollywood. The latest and the newest of the big-sheik daddies. The complete and total answer to any number of little blondes’ prayers. Only he doesn’t know it, and isn’t bothered. That’s W.C. Fields.
With that nose, crimson and gleaming like a lantern on a detour sign, that funny little walk with the knees popping well out, to say nothing of the stomach, those shrewd little blue eyes that have seen everything everywhere, and the whole ensemble (and oh, the voice!) topped by straw-colored hair — well, here is something!
Yet, for some reason, the girls go twittering about frantically begging people all over the place, “Please tell me more about Mr. Fields.” “He’s the most fascinating man.” “He’s so blasé.”
What do you make of it?
Handsome, romantic actors, with melting eyes and slickem on the hair, stroll about the Paramount lot in droves. No one cares. Stalwart Roman soldiers from the Cleopatra set clinked and clattered in all their splendid uniforms. And never a tumble. But let W.C. go goose-stepping away from the set, and boy! the lovely honeys hang from dressing-room and studio office windows calling, “Yoo-hoo, Mr. Fields!” “Oh, you, Mr. Fields!”
And W.C., without even a backward or a sideward glance, will merely flick his fingers in a bored and weary gesture, the knees will hippety-hop, hippety-hop, the nose do a “Shine On, Shine On Harvest Moon,” as into his own dressing-room, he’ll pop. Let the rest of the world go by.
What a man!
And for the first time in the history of Hollywood, the favorite reigning Romeo of the day is also the favorite with every man in town, from the biggest producer to the lowliest extra. He’s Hollywood’s man-of-the-hour, I tell you. Every producer, supervisor, director, actor, sportsman, writer, or just plain every-day man in the suburb of Hollywood will trek out to Bill Fields’ at the slightest pretext. And sit for hours and often days, listening to his priceless yarns. Stories gathered on his round-the-world touring as a juggler. He knows everybody everywhere. His fund of material seldom runs out. And when it does, fear not; Bill makes up grand ones.
“Only, you know,” he says, “I’m not nearly as good at it as I used to be. They ketch me up. Yes, sir, they ketch me up. Someone will say, ‘Bill, tell so-and-so about you and the one-eyed acrobat.’ And I’ll think, ‘Oh, oh, they got me.’ For the life of me I can’t remember what I made up about that one.”
There’s one thing — or no — three or four things that set Bill Fields’ home apart from any other in town. Parked in the front-yard, for instance, are a kiddie-car, tricycle and a rubber ball that you trip over, sprawling you against a long, tan-colored trailer (also parked in the front-yard, mind you). It’s fitted up like a bungalow on wheels.
And this, remember, is the entrance to a Hollywood bachelor’s home. Only, one discovers, the kiddie-car and the tricycle belong to the son of the Finnish couple who manage Bill’s home. But the trailer, ah, that trailer... that belongs to W.C. himself. And remind me to tell you more about it later.
Well, sir, even that cluttered up front-yard doesn’t discourage the little cutie-boopie-doopies one whit. For when Bing Crosby or Dick Arlen, his neighbors, throw a Party, you’ll find those Lovely Little Ladies that Bing sings about, chirping across the Crosby back fence, “Yoohoo, Mr. Fields.” “Bring your kiddie-car and come on over.” “Bing’s going to sing ‘You’ve Got Evervthing.’“
It’s simply beyond me.
But if you think the front-yard of Willie C.’s is cute, you should see Willie in his back-yard. Now there’s something!
A bower of pink roses hangs over the balcony of that back-yard by the lake. Roses, mind you, in Willie’s backyard. And pink ones, too. Fancy Bill’s face framed in that bower. Softly the ripples of old Toluca lap against the grassy shore while swans, necks curved in graceful arches, float majestically. Long graceful branches of weeping willow trees (“leaping villows,” as his Finnish man-servant calls them) sweep the edge of the water. An occasional canoe will silently glide by. There, in the midst of this scene of soft and tranquil beauty, will sit W.C. in a pair of the low-lifest carpet slippers in captivity. His shirt open at the throat, his hair blowing about in the soft breeze as he calls in that nasal, side-splitting voice to some groaning victim he has inveigled into his sun-cabinet nearby.
“What?” he’ll say, “only a hundred and eighteen degrees? Why, that isn’t warm. What ‘d’ya wanta do, freeze to death? Wait’ll she gets to a hundred and thirty-five. No, you’re not coming out. You’re staying there.”
And then, “ Yoo-hoo, W.C.!” And directly across the lake will be Mary Brian calling from her own back-yard. “Oh, Mr. Fields, how are you?”
“I’m swell, Mary I’m swell. Shut up. No, I didn’t say it to you, Mary. I’m talking to this guy in the sun-cabinet. It’s only a hundred and twenty-five degrees. He’s a sissy, can’t take it.”
Mary’s laugh echoes among the sighing trees.
Silence again, except for fainter groans from the cabinet. Presently, Thomas, “the leaping villow Finn,” will emerge and carry the practically unconscious victim from the sun-cabinet.
And Willie’s indifferent fingers will flick the air and unconcernedly he’ll pick up a couple of stones and a stray visitor, and go juggling into the house.
What do you still make of it?
A swivel chair is set between his desk and bar. “Now, gentlemen, we’ll get down to business,” he’ll say. And swish — the chair will be turned to the desk. “All right, gentlemen, now we’ll have a little snort of refreshments.” And swish, with Bill never having to leave the chair, he’s at the bar.
Oh, yes, about the trailer. On location for a picture, a well-to-do tourist drove up by the roadside, with a trailer fastened to the back of a high-priced car, to watch Bill at work. Bill spied it and, walking over, looked carefully in all the windows and doors.
“How much?“ he asked the owner.
“Not for sale,” the owner grunted.
“Didn’t ask that,” Bill replied. “I said how much? “
“Er... why... fifteen hundred dollars,” the owner gulped in surprise.
“Sold!” snapped Bill. “Unhook her.”
And the trailer became Bill’s.
Never in all his life has he had enough sleep, and here was a golden opportunity for sleep. So, back to town came Bill — asleep in his trailer. And from then on, where Willie went, there also went the trailer. His people were its people. And its people, as often as not, are the elite of the town, usually on their way to the prize-fights or some late spot. For no matter how swanky the guests at Bill’s house, they all must pile into the trailer and go places.
If it’s only a ten minutes’ drive, no difference. Coffee and sandwiches, for no reason, are served in the trailer. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.
The sight of Bill’s trailer pulling up to the swanky Colony Club door with ladies and gentlemen in full evening dress alighting from the back door — a sandwich in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other — is just one of those things, that’s all. And even that doesn’t discourage the girls.
“We’d rather,” they avow with loud squeals, “drive with Willie in his trailer, than Gable in his roadster.”
What’s the man got, anyhow?
That trailer, the most notorious object in all Southern California, has allowed Bill to catch up on no less than ten years of lost sleep. Days he’s called out on location he merely steps out of bed and, still in pajamas, goes to bed in the trailer. Half an hour before he gets on location, he has breakfast in bed, reads the paper, shaves, takes exercises (there’s a pretty sight!), waves to the people along the highway, and is ready for work pronto. Or nearly pronto, I’ll tell you.
When Bill returns from the studio after a day’s work, and must attend some gala party, he merely says, “Toodlyoo” to the Finns and, falling headlong over the Finnish offspring’s kiddie-car, retires to the trailer to go to sleep. When the driver arrives at the party, he merely parks and waits patiently until, ting-a-ling, the phone rings. Or didn’t you know about the phone from the trailer to the chauffeur in the car ahead? Well, Bill telephones and says, “Okay, now I’ll dress.” And there he is. Much to all the ladies’ delight.
Not satisfied with the telephone, he now has a dictaphone installed in his trailer and there sits Bill, for hours at a time, making records for the poor, bewildered Finns to pick up and play when he wants service. “Where are my gray pants?“ will scream from one record. Or, “Who drank up all that sherry?” will come from another. And the records are scattered all over the place.
Lunch time in any other actor’s dressing-room is just a time for lunch. But not in W.C. Fields’.
Lunch time in Bill’s dressing-room, is Field-Day, the Junior-Senior egg throw, a story conference, a benefit performance for an old, dilapidated actor, and an amazing exhibition of the daring-young-man-on-the-flying-trapeze.
No need to stand at Forty-Second Street and Broadway to see everyone you know. Sit in Bill’s dressing-room and the whole world goes in and out. Old, tired-out actors, servants of all the other actors, world-famous writers, artists, everyone, to get that quizzically comical “Hello” from Bill. Right outside the door will be Bill’s necktie parked across the potted shrub and his white shirt hanging over a chair outside to dry. Marlene Dietrich, who has the dressing-room next door, will stand gazing out at the family wash murmuring, “Oh, that Mr. Fields! He’s such a one — and so-o-o nice.”
Hollywood has seen plenty of strange sights and peculiar objects in its gay, young, hoodlumish life, but never, never, has it seen anything like Bill on his way to the golf links. With much groaning he manages to get his canoe onto the lake, and he’s off. Over the rippling water to the golf links. Even the “leaping villows” bow their heads to hide their snickers, and the swans pause in open-billed astonishment to stare at a gentleman with an amazing nose rowing blithely along, singing “I’m Just a Vagabond Lover.”
Can you, or can you not, picture it?
All of Bill’s gorgeous indifference to the ladies may be attributed to two things:
One is, when Bill was a young man juggling himself around the world, he spied on ship-board a charming little creature, whom he thought a pretty cute number. Those small baby-blue peepers of Bill’s kept themselves fastened on the fair charmer. But somehow she never noticed Bill.
And then came the night of a fancy-dress ball, and Bill decided not to doll up. He’d just dress as usual and see how’s about meeting the charmer. Looking up at him and clapping her little hands together, she squealed, “Oh, Mr. Fields, that’s the funniest false nose I’ve ever seen.”
It was Bill’s own, of course. But the remark ruined his life — for two whole hours. The other reason — and the main one, probably — is that Bill’s already engaged. His heart has been taken completely. He shows you the bracelet, with a little gold heart dangling from it, which she put on his wrist. It never comes off. Her name is Angela Moran, and she’s just four-and-a-half years old. Her daddy was the Moran of the Two Black Crows, you remember.
She loves Bill, and Bill loves her. And that’s why, as I say, Hollywood beauties can “Yoo-hoo, Mr. Fields” all day long if they want. Bill Fields is true to a little gold heart that dangles forever from his wrist.
With every girl on the lot yoo-hooing him, W. C. Fields is completely indifferent to ladies. Bill here resists Adrienne Ames, who played with him in “You’re Telling Me”
Bill sits in his back-yard in the shade of a palm, inhaling the pleasant aroma of foamy fluid. Truly this is paradise now, without feminine intrusion.
What! Only a hundred and eighteen degrees? Bill says any man who can’t stay in his sun cabinet till it hits a hundred and thirty-five is a sissy. Yes, he can.
Nobody can vamp W.C. For on his wrist he wears a bracelet and a tiny gold heart. To it he is true.
Bill’s trailer has modern conveniences. To direct the driver in the car ahead, all he has to do is pick up this telephone. Where he goes, the bar goes.
The owner refused to sell, so Fields bought this trailer in spite of him. He rides in it wherever he goes, parties his friends in it, and the girls think it’s grand!
Bill Fields and Baby LeRoy borrow the kiddie-car and the tricycle from the Finnish youngster at Bill’s home and stage a contest on the Paramount lot. Very sporting, eh? Who said they were having a “feud”?
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