W. C. Fields: Mother of Invention

Everett Freeman was among the writers who worked with director George Marshall on You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939). "All the critics," he later recalled, "referred to the movie's daring innovations, its departure from formula, and its innovative use of the camera -- especially on the long shots intercutting to the close-ups."

Marshall and Freeman, ironically, owed much of the credit for these innovations to W. C. Fields, the film's star and a drunk of legendary proportions. Indeed, long shots of a double were used in large part because Fields shuffled off to his limousine (which had a wet bar in the back) one day -- and never returned!

[Even after entering a Pasadena sanitarium to dry out, Fields drank two bottles of gin -- smuggled in by friends -- every day. "I only drink to steady my nerves," he once remarked. "Sometimes I'm so steady I don't move for months."]

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