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In this day and age, when the biggest stars of radio and screen are barely teenagers, it’s hard to imagine that W.C. Fields did not fully make his mark in show business until he was 51. At a time of life when sensible folks are at least beginning to consider retirement, Fields found fortune and favor with the public by playing the most unapologetic of bullies, con artists, and alcoholics. “He never asked to be loved,” says James Curtis, author of the exhaustively authoritative W. C. Fields: A Biography. And that’s the mark of Fields’ greatness. The most unsentimental of the classic comedians, he focused his rage on the petty humiliations of daily life—which are constant and timeless. Using access to scores of original documents and interviewing people who knew and worked with the man, Curtis dispels many Fields myths. (He didn’t hate children, just whining co-star Baby LeRoy, whom he famously kicked in the Pampers onscreen.) Bring a flask to Curtis’ half-day seminar, with film clips, “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break: The Life and Art of W.C. Fields,” at 2 p.m. at the S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. $25. (202) 357-3030. (Dave Nuttycombe)