William Claude Dukenfield (January 29, 1880 – December 25, 1946), better known as W. C. Fields, was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer. Fields's comic persona was a misanthropic and hard-drinking egotist, who remained a sympathetic character despite his snarling contempt for dogs and children.
Fields died in 1946, from an alcohol-related stomach hemorrhage, on the holiday he claimed to despise: Christmas Day. He died at Las Encinas Sanatorium, Pasadena, California, a bungalow-type sanitarium. According to Carlotta Monti's memoir published in 1971, as he lay in bed dying, she went outside and turned the hose onto the roof, to allow Fields to hear for one last time his favorite sound—falling rain. According to the documentary W.C. Fields Straight Up, his death occurred in this way: he winked and smiled at a nurse, put a finger to his lips, and died. Fields's biographer James Curtis says this story is unlikely, and is uncorroborated by the obituary in the Pasadena Star-News and its sources in the hospital. Fields was 66, and had been a patient for 22 months. His funeral took place on January 2, 1947, in Glendale, California.
Fields's will, written in 1943, directed that he be cremated immediately upon death, but this order was delayed when Hattie and Claude Fields objected on religious grounds. They were successful in contesting another clause in Fields's will that left a portion of his estate to establish a "W. C. Fields College for Orphan White Boys and Girls, where no religion of any sort is to be preached." After litigation concerning this and other provisions of the will, Fields was cremated on June 2, 1949, and his ashes interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale.
There have been stories that Fields' grave marker reads "I'd rather be in Philadelphia," a line similar to one he used in My Little Chickadee when a mob that is preparing to hang him ask him if he has any last words: "I'd like to see Paris before I die...Philadelphia will do!" In life, Fields was known for disparaging his native city, Philadelphia. In a 1925 Vanity Fair article, "A Group of Artists Write Their Own Epitaphs," the mock-epitaph for Fields reads, "Here Lies / W.C. Fields / I Would Rather Be Living in Philadelphia."
In reality, the interment marker for Fields's ashes merely bears his stage name and the years of his birth and death.