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Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American DreamCon Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, and Zombies$
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Paul A. Cantor

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177304

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177304.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM KENTUCKY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.kentucky.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The University Press of Kentucky, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in KSO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

The Talented Mr. Dukenfield

The Talented Mr. Dukenfield

W. C. Fields and The American Dream

(p.31) 2 The Talented Mr. Dukenfield
Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American Dream

Paul A. Cantor

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter surveys W. C. Fields’s entertainment career, emphasizing his films, especially It’s a Gift and The Bank Dick. Fields lived the American dream, but he struggled enough to do so that he became acutely aware of its dark side. In an almost postmodern fashion, Fields was extremely self-conscious in his art and delighted in exposing its artificiality. His favorite role in his films was a con man. His films generally deal with men in uncomfortable domestic situations who turn to get-rich-quick schemes in a desperate attempt to escape the suffocating atmosphere of their homes. Fields gives his films happy endings, but they usually occur as a result of improbable turns in the plots, thus raising doubts about how realistic the successful resolutions truly are. Fields offers the paradox of an artist who provides lighthearted portrayals of the dark side of the American dream.

Keywords:   American dream, W. C. Fields, It’s a Gift, The Bank Dick

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