It was a lovely day in NYC for yesterday’s W.C. Fields History Walk, led by Kevin Fitzpatrick, which focused on the places where W.C. Fields lived, worked and recreated in the Broadway district. It’s all part of Fields Fest, our two-month celebration of Fields’ life and career. Here are some of the places we stopped.
Trav S.D. and Kevin Fitzpatrick, prior to starting the tour in Shubert Alley.
Fitzpatrick educates the throngs about the Great Man.
This building was formerly the Hotel Markwell, the last place where Fields lived with his wife Harriet and infant son Claude in 1905 before the pressures of show business finally drove a wedge through the marriage. Today it is an assisted living facility.
The Palace Theatre, the flagship of bigtime vaudeville, then and now. Fields appeared here on a bill with Sarah Bernhart in 1913 when he was still a juggler.
The New Amsterdam Theatre, home to the Ziegfeld Follies, then and now. Fields appeared in the 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1921 and 1925 editions of the Follies, as well as the 1919 edition of Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic and the 1920 edition of Ziegfeld’s Nine O’Clock Revue. Learn more about these and Fields’ other Broadway shows here.
The uptown facade of the Lyric Theatre, currently comprising the former Lyric and Apollo Theatres. The Apollo was the site of Fields’s smash hit show Poppy. (Naturally, this was a different Apollo from the one in Harlem.)
Formerly the Astor Hotel, where showfolk like Fields bent an elbow after the show.
The Globe Theatre (now called the Lunt–Fontanne), where Fields appeared in George White’s Scandals of 1922.
Hammerstein’s Theatre, site of Fields’ last Broadway show Ballyhoo (1930). Today it is the Ed Sullivan Theatre, where The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is produced. If Fields had lived just two years longer, Sullivan could have presented him on his television show.
This was just a cool stop along the way. I must have walked by here a thousand times without ever noticing it. Israel Miller was shoemaker to the stars at the turn of the last century. In 1929 a contest was held in which participants voted on the four most beloved American actresses. Statues of the winners (Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Mary Pickford and Rosa Ponselle) were created by Alexander Stirling Calder (father of the better known modernist sculptor) and installed in the building’s facade.
The tour stopped at Flute Midtown, site of Texas Guinan’s Speakeasy and former home of Wit’s End, where your correspondent rewarded himself with the house’s signature champagne cocktail, which is infused with ginger and known as the “Intime” in honor of Guinan’s club. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it! And anyway, we said a toast to W.C. Fields! For information about upcoming Fields Fest events go here.
Look for more on this tour in coming weeks on the Classic Movies and More web show, hosted by Rob Medaska.
Why did I think Fields was a not-so-nice guy – was it he murdered someone? oh heck, I don’t know.
It was a reputation that he cultivated for the purposes of comedy and self-promotion. But in show biz terms, he was a better guy than most!