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The Forgotten: Fields Forever

"Greg La Cava is, to my mind, the No. 1 director of these great and grand and glorious United States of ours. I have many friends, Directors, and I hate to have to expose my hand like this." —William Claude Dukenfield.

W.C. Fields, celebrated this month at the Film Forum in New York, might possibly be the greatest of the talking clowns, eclipsing even the Marx Bros, even Laurel & Hardy. It's easy to forget he had a substantial silent career before talkies, so crucial does that distracted drawl seem to his star identity. While Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd seemed somewhat diminished when audible words emerged from their lips, like Stan and Ollie, Fields blossomed in talkies. But, though they truly excel when offered the gift of speech, their silents are nothing to be sneezed at either.

Although Fields' talkies often had gifted comedy directors at the helm, notably former Keaton collaborator Clyde Bruckman,

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