I would bet that most people reading this blog know that W.C. Fields was a Broadway headliner prior to his emergence as a Hollywood superstar. Furthermore, many readers might also know that he had a long career in Vaudeville before that. What one might possibly not be aware of, though, is what his breakthrough act in Vaudeville was. Fields first came to prominence as a Juggler. And not just any Juggler. Within a few years of his debut in the early 20th Century he was being billed as ‘The World’s Greatest Juggler’ and it seems that nobody thought that this was an exaggeration.
In the 1930s–the years of his world-wide prominence–most of his fans had no idea of his acrobatic origins. So he would occasionally revive one of his old juggling routines and once again astonish audiences with his skill, dexterity and sly humor. This clip is from ‘The Old-Fashioned Way’ (1934). Fields was fifty-five years old at the time of the filming and appears to have lost none of his assured technique which made him one of the highest paid Vaudeville performers in the country. The cigar-box juggling bit which climaxes this five-minute segment must be seen to be believed.