Wednesday 2 August 2006


In my blog on Sunday Cricket, the other day, I signed off with the phrase 'Godfrey Daniels', prompting David to ask, not unreasonably, “Who the heck’s 'Godfrey Daniels'?”

Since, possibly, the same question, was hovering on your lips, I thought I’d explain…

Godfrey Daniels! (sometimes plural, sometime singular) was a ‘minced curse’ for God dammit! favoured by the great screen comic, W C Fields.

Fields doubtless indulged in what is sometimes called ‘light cursing’ less out of sensitivity to the feelings of his audience than to the restrictive rules and regulations of the authorities that monitored movie morality.

According to IMDb (I love their tagline: ‘Earth’s Biggest Movie Database’!), Fields first used the phrase in his 1930 film, The Golf Specialist in which his character, J Effingham Bellweather, also famously said: “You know, I’ve never struck a woman in my life… Not even my mother!

In 1975, Movie historian, Richard J Anobile published a book on Fields' early movies and called it --- Godfrey Daniels! Verbal and Visual Gems from the Short Films of W C Fields.

There are many really funny (and totally un-pc) Fields quotes, but here’s a fistful for you - preferably read (if you know how to do it) with that celebrated accent: slow and very slightly slurred...

Start every day with a smile and get it over with.

‘Horse sense’ is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.

I am free of all prejudice. I hate everyone equally.

Children should neither be seen nor heard from -- ever again.

Madam, there's no such thing as a tough child - if you parboil them first for seven hours, they always come out tender.

Women are like elephants to me: I like to look at them, but I wouldn't want to own one.

I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That's the one thing I'm indebted to her for!

I always keep a bottle of stimulant handy in case I see a snake -- which I also keep handy.

My illness is due to my doctor's insistence that I drink milk, a whittish fluid they force down helpless babies.

Once... in the wilds of Afghanistan, I lost my corkscrew, and we were forced to live on nothing but food and water for days.

I don't drink water; fish f*** in it.

What a gorgeous day. What effulgent sunshine. It was a day of this sort the McGillicuddy brothers murdered their mother with an axe.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again. Then give up. There's no use being a damned fool about it.

Just a quick reference back to Walt Disney (where this all started): along with many other Hollywood stars, Fields appeared in caricatured form in various Disney shorts, including Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938) in which the irascible Fields was cast as equally cantankerous Humpty Dumpty, a role he had already played (with an egg-head mask) in Paramount Studio’s 1933 production of Alice in Wonderland.

[Image: Illustration to Field's "Looking for loopholes" line from the Quotes & Sayings section of the highly entertaining and enlightening website Terry Colon Illustration]


Anonymous said...

I know I'm showing my ignorance by saying I don't know who this hilarious fellow is, but after all that I think I should probably go find out. Or at least recycle some of his material.

What a hoot!

Brian Sibley said...

No, Cafrine, not ignorance at all...

You just don't happen to know about W C Fields...

On the other hand, you undoubtedly DO know about a lot of other people and things that I don't know about!

The secret - as you are well aware - is that we tell each other and share with each other and then, possibly, we all learn and grow...

So, W C Fields...

Birth name: William Claude Dunkenfield; born:1880; died: 1946, which, let's face it, was three years before even I was born and I'm ancient

Fields left home at the age of 11, entered vaudeville and became a comic juggler. He later went into movies, beginning with 'silents' and 'shorts', but going on to become one of the great screen comics of the 1930s and '40s, ranked by many alongside Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Groucho Marx and Laurel & Hardy.

Notable films (of which he was also the writer) include: 'You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man', 'The Bank Dick', 'My Little Chickadee' (with Mae West, shown on my blog) and another film that provided what became a catch-phrase associated with its star: 'Never Give A Sucker An Even Break'.

He played - to perfection - Mr Micawber in the 1935 film version of Dickens 'David Copperfield' and TURNED DOWN the title role of 'The Wizard of Oz'!

I can't better this appraisal of his screen character from Wikipedia:

"Fields created one of the great American comic personas of the first half of the 20th century - a misanthrope who teetered on the edge of buffoonery but never quite fell in, an egotist blind to his own failings, a charming drunk; and a man who hated children, dogs, and women, unless they were the wrong sort of women."


From 'My Little Chickadee' (1940):

CUTHBERT J TWILLIE (Fields): May I present my card?

FLOWER BELLE LEE (Mae West): 'Novelties and Notions.' What kind of notions you got?

CUTHBERT J TWILLIE: You'd be surprised. Some are old, some are new. Whom have I the honor of addressing?

FLOWER BELLE LEE: Mmm, call me Flower Belle.

CUTHBERT J TWILLIE: Flower Belle, what a euphonious appellation. Easy on the ears and a banquet for the eyes.

FLOWER BELLE LEE: You're kinda cute yourself.

CUTHBERT J TWILLIE: Thank you. I never argue with a lady.




CUTHBERT J TWILLIE: Tell me, prairie flower, can you give me the inside info on yon damsel with the hothouse cognomen?

MRS GIDEON: Do you mean Miss Flower Belle Lee?

CUTHBERT J TWILLIE: I don't mean some woman out in China.

MRS GIDEON: Well! I'm afraid I can't say anything good about her.

CUTHBERT J TWILLIE: I can see what's good. Tell me the rest. something to ME.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Brian! I suddenly feel very enlightened!

Quick question: Which W.C. Fields film do you recommened for a W.C. Fields virgin? My Little Chickadee looks promising, but I don't know if I can go past such titles as 'You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man', 'The Bank Dick' and 'Never Give A Sucker An Even Break'.

Also, technically speaking, what do you suppose is the age one becomes 'Ancient'? Because, growing up, I always thought ancient people were anybody born in the previous century, only... for the past six years, that has included me and almost the entire world population so I'm not sure that theory holds up anymore.

Brian Sibley said...

A 'Fields VIRGIN'! Now, there's a concept!

I'd say start with 'My Little Chickadee' if, for no other reason, because you also get the wonderfully acerbic (and equally un-pc) Mae West in full-on mode...

Not sure when anyone TRULY become Ancient - I just feel it in my bones... LITERALLY!!

Phil said...

Somehow I've gone through life without hearing the phrase "Godfrey Daniel(s)" (and without seeing a whole W.C.Fields movie for that matter). Except, that is, for a Neil Innes song called "Godfrey Daniel". It's a parody of Elton John's "Daniel", but now I know the meaing of the phrase I will take the song in a whole new light!

Brian Sibley said...

Since Phil has mentioned Neil Innes' song and, by so doing, has brought music into the equation, I feel obligated to tell everyone of the existence of an organisation entitled 'Godfrey Daniels' in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA.

This 'NOT-FOR-PROFIT, MEMBER SUPPORTED LISTENING CLUB', "exists to create and nurture the appreciation of traditional and contemporary folk music and performing arts by providing an intimate environment where professional artists, amateur performers and audience members will be enriched by the unique experience of live performance..."

To find out more about them (and why they are named after a phrase used by W C Fields) visit their website at... well, OBVIOUSLY, GODFREY DANIELS!