Friday, August 3, 2012

W.C. Fields, Children, and Animals

In Hollywood, there is an old adage--a chestnut of wisdom that is attributed to the great comedian W.C. Fields--that goes: "Never work with children or animals."  The reason for this, I presume, is that both child actors and animal actors are much harder to control and have a good deal more trouble following directions than adult actors do.  Or perhaps Fields said it as an acknowledgement of the fact that once there is a child and/or an animal in any scene, no viewer will be able to look at anything else on the screen.  No viewer with a heart, that is.  Those little rascals tend to be scene-stealers, that's it in a nutshell.
Children and animals steal the show because they have this tendency to be, um...shall we say, incredibly CUTE.  SWEET.  PRECIOUS.  ADORABLE.  (Totes adorbs, even.) Especially very small children, babies if you will.  And a baby with a chubby little body, naked in a bathtub--oh boy, if you're acting in a scene with that child, I hate to tell you this, but no one is going to notice you one bit.  I don't care how gorgeous/handsome/hilarious/Oscar-worthy an actor you are, that baby will be the star of the show.  Add a puppy to the mix--a puppy kissing said chubby baby on his edible little cheek, as in the illustration above--and it's all over.  Those two will steal everyone's complete attention, and any adult/human actor in the scene will be relegated to the job of extra.

If you're old enough to have been a fan of the T.V. show Full House, tell me, when one of the tiny, mousy-voiced Olsen twins was onscreen, did you ever even notice Uncle Joey?  I don't think so.  Or if you saw the movie Marley & Me, could you take your eyes away from that lovable Golden Retriever, even to look at Owen Wilson or Jennifer Aniston?  Doubt it.

I don't think the inimitable W.C. Fields had any trouble stealing a scene, however, even away from the most delightful child or puppy dog.  He was quite a character himself, larger than life, with both a voice and a face that would be hard to ignore.  He is one of my father's heroes, and you really do have to love a guy who gave this reason for choosing a career in show business: "If I can make them laugh and through that laughter make this old world seem just a little brighter, then I am satisfied."

(I realize I should have found a photo from a T.V. show or movie to go with this post.  But I thought this vintage Good Housekeeping cover was such a great illustration of the scene-stealing capabilities of children and animals!  And check out that article title on the bottom right of the cover: Fields might fit into that very category!)

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