During his final fourteen years, actor W. C. Fields enjoyed an oft-turbulent relationship with Carlotta Monti, a minor actress who became his mistress in the early 1930s. In 1939, midway through their affair and with marriage out of the question (Fields, although separated, still had a wife), Monti informed Fields of her intention to marry another man. The letter below was his response; all at once pragmatic, supportive, generous and even humorous as he warns the woman he clearly still loves that his will ‘is subject to change’.
As it happens, Monti was Fields’ lover up until his death on Christmas Day, 1946.
September 12, 1939.
You must make up your own mind. If you are assured the man you are going to marry can take care of you in your old age and that is what you most desire, you should go ahead. I have given deep thought of how to protect one’s self from poverty in old age but have never found a solution. When I get an idea and analyse it thoroughly, I always find so many things can happen: The banks fail; insurance companies go on the blink; money is apt to be depreciated; stocks and bonds go to nothing; property values go so low you permit the state to sell it for delinquent taxes; nothing is certain but death.
Is the gentleman you intend to marry financially solvent? Can he take care of you when he gets old like me? How long have you been keeping company with him, or did he ask you to marry him when you met him first time last evening in the elevator? Why didn’t you let me know about him before? I might have been able to give you some advice. This is all so sudden
Is the gentlemen in question the one that happens to be just the handsomest thing anyone ever saw, who has the nice wife and was it two children, and you didn’t give a fig for him at the time? I remember you speaking of him while you were on here. I hope he or whoever it is will appreciate your kindness and that great love which you inherit from your Mother.
No matter what you decide to do, I have you now set in my will for about $25,000, one automobile and a cut in all my belongings, include my writings. Spending about $25.00 per week this would keep you twenty-five years. Now that I know your intentions, I will make it in weekly payments of $25.00 or $30.00 a week so that no P.I. or confidence man can rook you out of more than that amount at a time. You will always be assured of doughnuts and Java, married or unmarried, providing, of course, the banks hold up. Wills, of course, as you know, are subject to change which will happen if you do something which greatly displeases me.
Your statement of what you were informed I had said at Chasen’s is too ludicrous to be repelled by serious denial.
Susie informed me that she had written you the kids were safe; consequently, I never mentioned it in my former letter.
Now bear up because we all have our little upsets. Me for instance. Just now Uncle Whiskers in Washington is suing me for $56,500. back income tax; the Citron suit comes up tomorrow and Loyd Wright and Millikan are giving me the absent treatment. I can get no word from them or to them. I have my what seems like an unsolvable problem at Universal. My friend, Mr. Cowan, has double-crossed me eight different ways. A Mr. Barry is suing me for having stolen his script on the last picture. Another gentleman Eskimo by the name of Harry Yadkoe is also suing me, saying I stole the story from him. Mrs. Wilson has just called and informed me that Dr. Shaw, the owner of this house on the hill where I have felt so comfortable, is back from South America and wishes the house as soon as I can get out. Outside of that, everything is very calm and collected along the Wampoo.
Keep well and try to control your nerves and accept my really sincerest congratulations. I hope you will find peace, tranquility and love in your new venture. My best wishes and appreciation of your kindness.
(Signed, ‘The Continental One’)
The Continental Man
Miss C. Douglas,
55 West 69th St.,
New York, N. Y.