W. C. FIELDS - MANUSCRIPT SIGNED - HFSID 285867
Sale Price $5,950.00
Original Prohibition-era W.C. Fields comedy sketch.
Manuscript Comedy Sketch titled and signed: "One of the six best Cellars/By/W.C. Fields", 13¼p, 6x8¼, separate sheets. No place, no date. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect on January 16, 1920. As of that date, "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited." Prohibition is the topic of this comedy sketch, One of the Six Best Cellars, which is written with a bit of satire. The phrase "six best cellars" was an expression first used in 1920 referring to the best hideaways where liquor was stored during Prohibition. The phrase was used in a "Los Angeles Herald" story on December 8, 1920 stating that actress Mabel Normand, known to be a heavy drinker, had one of the "six best cellars" of Prohibition liquor in the Hollywood film colony. Although not dated, this comedy sketch was likely written during the Prohibition era. In the early 1920s Fields wrote many comedy sketches while performing in New York's vaudeville, most notably in the Ziegfeld Follies. Many of his sketches revolved around a con man who liked his booze. This theme appears in this sketch. Much of his work for Ziegfeld later appeared on film. There are three characters in Fields' story: Allen, Catlett and an unnamed girl. Allen has a secret drinking location. In part: "Catlett, 'So this is the place Oscar was telling me about.' Allen, 'Yes, it's right under the swimming tank.' Climbs ladder to get bottle on top shelf; is about to reach bottle when ladder slides away. Descends ladder, moves it into position again. 'You see that door up there?' points to trapdoor in ceiling. 'Well that's in the center of tank right underneath.' Catlett, 'What's the idea?' Allen, 'Well if any prohibition officers try to crash the place, somebody gives the warning and that door is automatically opened, and this whole place is flooded.' Catlett, 'Suppose someone is in here at the time?' Allen, 'There is a bell rings five seconds before the door is sprung; that gives everyone time to escape...." As Catlett is drinking Scotch and soda, the bell rings and the two "rush out when flood gate in ceiling opens and permits a rush of water bringing with it a beautiful girl in bathing suit. Both gallants return, Catlett rescuing the girl and Allen using large board or plank to block flood gate. While the bulk of the water is restrained, many small streams find their way through, drenching the party. Girl says she was floating in tank when door suddenly opened and she was sucked in...Catlett and girl have love scene. Allen enters to get glasses refilled at most inopportune moments...Allen who has returned again making more cocktails is drenched to hide. He shakes water out of sleeves and from pant leg. Catlett, 'Well, here's glorifying American Independence, Finis...." YOU CAN SEE FIELDS' TRAIN OF THINKING AS HE CAME TO NAME THE SKETCH'S TITLE. HE TITLED THE SKETCH AFTER HE WROTE IT, AS THE TITLE PAGE HAD BEEN AFFIXED TO THE FIRST PAGE OF THE SKIT. FURTHERMORE, THE NAME OF THE SKIT EVOLVED. First he wrote "The Best Cellars", then inserted "six" in the title with an insert mark (^), then added "one of" on top. Arriving at his final title, Fields crossed out what he had written then rewrote his final title, adding "the". Then on a separate page, he wrote the corrected title in full and it was attached to the top of the first page, which now measures about 6x11. Fields' cross-outs can be seen if the first page is held up to a light. W.C. Fields wrote his own material and was an excellent screenwriter, sometimes using pseudonyms such as Charles Bogle, Otis Criblecoblis and Mahatma Kane Jeeves. Folds. Rust paper clip impression at top edges of some pages. Irregular top edges. On last page of verso in pencil, unknown hand, "Mr. Fields/R.528". Overall, fine condition.
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