W. C. Fields, Lies, Lies And More Lies

Michael Azerrad

By Michael Azerrad

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Recorded in the last year or so of W. C. Fields 'life, the classic monologue "Temperance" is as droll as it is crushingly poignant. Ravaged by alcoholism, his liver rapidly failing, an audibly fading Fields delivered this mock lecture on the evils of John Barleycorn. So we're chuckling at the self-delusion of the character, who is clearly a drunk, but the performance is being delivered by an actual drunk. Oh, the denial. Substance abuse experts would have a, uh, field day with that one, but the rest of us can simply enjoy the wit and perhaps unintentional wisdom.

A classic comic in an unintentionally heartbreaking moment.

"A man who overindulges lives in a dream," Fields notes. "He becomes conceited. He thinks the whole world revolves around him… and it usually does." He was referring to the spins, of course, but it's actually also a perceptive joke about the self-centered wreckage inflicted by the serial substance abuser. The rest of this album is just a narrated assortment of audio clips from Fields 'movies — funny stuff, to be sure, but better off skipping those and just watching genius movies like The Bank Dick, The Man on the Flying Trapeze and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.