Oregon, August 1939. “Unemployed lumber worker goes with his wife to the bean harvest. Note Social Security number tattooed on arm.” Is determined through a public records search that 535-07-5248 belonged to one Thomas Cave, born July 1912, died in 1980 in Portland, OR. Which would make him 27 years old when this picture was taken.
“There can be no question that W.C. Fields disliked children, in a persecuted, un-angry sort of way. His encounters with the infant thespian, Baby LeRoy, were well known to Hollywood. He considered that the child was deliberately trying to wreck his career, and he stalked him remorselessly. The comedian realized that, whatever else might be going on in a scene, people would watch the antics of a baby. His competitive treatment of LeRoy was, therefore, exactly the same as he would have accorded an adult.
In one Fields-LeRoy picture, action was suspended so the infant could have his orange juice. Fields approached the child’s nurse and said, ‘Why don’t you take a breather? I’ll give the little nipper his juice.’ She nodded gratefully, and left the set.
With a soliticious nursery air, Fields shook the bottle and removed its nipple, then drew a flask from his pocket and strengthened the citrus with a generous noggin of gin.
By the time shooting was ready to commence, Baby Le Roy was in a state of inoperative bliss.
[Director Norman] Taurog and others, including the returned nurse, inspected the tot with real concern. ‘I don’t believe he’s just sleepy,” said the nurse. “He had a good night’s rest.’
‘Jiggle him some more,’ suggested Taurog. ‘We’re running a little behind schedule.’
‘Walk him around, walk him around,’ was Fields’ hoarse and baffling comment from a secluded corner.
The child was more or less returned to consciousness, but in the scene that followed, Taurog complained of his lack of animation [or as Fields later put it, ‘he staggered through the scene like a Barrymore’]. Despite the most urgent measures to revive him, he remained glassy-eyed and in a partial coma. For some inexplicable reason, Fields seemed jubilant.
‘He’s no trouper,” he kept yelling. ‘The kid’s no trouper. Send him home!’”
-excerpted from W. C. Fields: His Follies and Fortunes by Robert Taylor Lewis
On the way home from kindergarten today my daughter said, “What if my head was just a huge eyeball?” and I immediately thought of this picture that was in my American Literature book when I was a sophomore in high school.
And I said you definitely have to wear a jaunty hat. And tails.
When I was in high school, I was obsessed with these guys. They were doctors in Marseilles during the plague. Their beaks were stuffed with herbs. They would go into the houses of the afflicted dressed like birds.