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Book Review: 'Man On the Flying Trapeze: The Life and Times of W.C. Fields'

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This dogged biography of the irascible, bulbous-nosed comic sweeps away the myth of his hardscrabble youth, cruel father, and life as a bitter, unfriendly star steeped in isolation and alcohol. (Well, the bit about the alcohol is true.) What remains — a normal childhood, a happy marriage that turns sour, friendships with fellow artists, a string of girlfriends — certainly isn’t as entertaining, but at least it’s accurate. And Man on the Flying Trapeze does what an artist’s biography should do: It makes you itch to view his work again (in this case, classics like The Bank Dick and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break). B

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