I was tempted to title this question, “If Mommie Dearest and the Queen of Mean could do it, why couldn’t Uncle Claude?” To wit, a couple years ago when Leona Helmsley died, it was revealed that she cut one of her grandsons out of any inheritance “for reasons well known to him”. This was reminiscent of the stunt Joan Crawford pulled on two of her adopted children. Which brings me to the question: It is well known among W. C. Fields buffs that the Great Man’s last will and testament directed that the bulk of his estate go to the founding of “The W. C. Fields College for White Orphan Boys and Girls (Where No Religion of Any Kind is Ever to be Taught)”. As the story goes, Fields’ heirs were mad that they were left with what has been described as “a pittance” and so they challenged the will and got it thrown out. So why is it that Crawford and Helmsley were permitted to screw over some of their heirs but Fields wasn’t?
I have tried researching this on the Internet and have pretty much gotten horse crap. One source said Fields’ son was a lawyer who knew how to overturn the will; but wouldn’t he, having such an obvious interest in the outcome, be disqualified from being the attorney in such a case? Another source claimed a judge voided the will because of the de facto “whites only” nature of the proposed “college”. But Fields’ death came a good ten years before Browning vs. Topeka BOE, and for all I can tell segregated orphanages may have been the rule rather than the exception back then. (The same source claimed Fields wasn’t really that much of a bigot, but a black employee had stolen from him recently and he was pissed about is. Sounds kind of like a bootlicking fast shuffle to me…)
Please let us know the Straight Dope on this. And, incidentally, I am also aware that “It is well known among W. C. Fields buffs” sometimes translates to “It is a piece of misinformation that has made the rounds for years now”, and if the whole story of the orphanage and the contested will is a bunch of hokum, please let us know that as well.