Dazzy Vance and W. C. Fields

W. C. Fields trashes a Palm Beach estate in It's the Old Army Game. Dazzy Vance was not far away.

W. C. Fields trashes the real-life Palm Beach estate of Edward Stotesbury in It’s the Old Army Game. Dazzy Vance was not far away.

In 1926, W. C. Fields filmed It’s the Old Army Game. The silent movie has something to do with Florida real-estate scams. It is perhaps best known for showcasing the brilliant and complex Midwesterner Louise Brooks before she left Hollywood pictures for Germany, becoming an international star under G. W. Pabst in the Frank Wedekind-inspired Pandora’s Box (Die Büchse der Pandora). Brooks was married to Edward Sutherland at the time of the Fields movie. He was a handsome director, a man’s man, who took to Fields like the proverbial duck to water (or gin to tonic).

Some of the movie was shot in Ocala, near the home of Dazzy Vance, another legendary Midwesterner, who would be buried in nearby Homosassa (a euphonious appellation if ever there was one), and who also took to Fields. The pair were friends, undoubtedly from Brooklyn, as the actor starred for Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (when not making movies) and lived in Bayside and Great Neck (Russell Gardens), while Vance was striking out batters at a record clip for the Dodgers. Indeed the unusual Vance, who came up with the Yankees but had arm troubles and didn’t begin his MLB career in earnest till he was thirty-one, would lead the N.L. in strikeouts for seven consecutive seasons. He was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame sixty years ago as I (Evander) write this, in 1955, and died six years later, aetat. sixty nine.

(W.C., by the way, claimed to have beaten off an alligator in the Everglades while getting a cool drink for Linelle Blackburn. See Simon Louvish’s Man on the Flying Trapeze for a lot more as well as Louise Brooks’s classic Lulu in Hollywood.)

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About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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