The American Vaudeville Museum Digital Archive contains over 4,321 items, from various vaudeville collections which are housed at the University of Arizona’s Special Collections. Presented in the digital archive are original materials comprised of theatre programs and postcards, sheet music, magazines, playbills, photographs and posters, stage scripts and other manuscripts, clippings and scrapbooks, films, miscellaneous papers.

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W.C. Fields, a funny guy

William Claude Dukenfield better known as W.C. Fields was born in Philadelphia on January 29, 1880. He was the eldest child of a working class family. His relationship with his short tempered father was volatile, and he frequently ran away from home, dropping out of school at a young age. He started juggling in his teens, and soon found his home in vaudeville, where he perfected his craft first  as a master juggler and then as a comedian. He became a headliner in both North America and Europe. He soon moved on to star in various musical comedies on Broadway, making his debut in 1905 in the production, “The Ham Tree”. He was a featured comedian in  Ziegfeld Follies for several years, before he moved on to Hollywood, where he appeared in a number of feature films. The photo shown here is from the 1940 film, “My Little Chickadee”, where he co-starred with Mae West. Fields suffered from alcoholism, and died on December 25, 1946  while living in a sanitarium in Pasadena, California.

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