All fans of Hollywood's greatest curmudgeon should enjoy this biographical film on W.C. Fields, born William Claude Dukenfield in 1880. Rod Steiger is superb as the juggling vaudeville star who eventually arrived in Hollywood during the silent era and moved up into talking features, showcasing his unique brand of comedy--mumbling dialogue and asides, thoroughly henpecked, and making no secret of his dislike for children and animals.
There are moments in the film where one can swear they're looking at the real Fields. Steiger also maintains the comedian's unique voice and inflections throughout, which probably wasn't easy. Some scenes recreate the set of his actual movies and characters. In a pre-CGI era(1970's), the movie recreates early Hollywood quite convincingly, with historic cars and period clothing. For those enamored of early 20th-century Hollywood(teens through 20's and 30's), it's a fun immersion, with occasional references to Jolson and Chaplin, too. One early scene, for example, set in a New York City movie theater, shows an audience laughing at real Chaplin footage. The film actually begins with the pre-Hollywood Fields on the vaudeville stage in New York City, where he's performing the famously racy dentist's office routine.
The movie is based on the memoirs of W.C.'s mistress, Carlotta Monti, played by Valerie Perrine, who's quite effective in the role. Fields' career wasn't all laughter, though. He had a dark side as well, and could be petty and mean-spirited at times, often fueled by an ever-increasing over-reliance on alcohol.
The movie follows the cinema's grandest comedian up through his death, which occurred on Christmas Day of 1946. Carlotta's at his bedside in a touching scene. Although Steiger compellingly portrays Mr. Fields' less admirable qualities, one comes away from the movie both moved and saddened by his untimely end.
In short, "W.C. Fields and Me" is the greatest recreation of the man's life that's ever been put on film.