Obituary: Carlotta Monti

Carlotta Montijo (Carlotta Monti), actress, dancer, singer; born 1907; died Woodland Hills, California 8 December 1993.

FOR 14 years Carlotta Monti lived with WC Fields as mistress, companion and nursemaid. In 1971 she wrote (with Cy Rice) WC Fields and Me, an account of her life with the comedian. The memoir was dedicated 'to myself, for the many years of loving service and kindness I willingly gave him'.

Carlotta Monti was born Carlotta Montijo, the daughter of a Mexican father and a half-Italian, half-Spanish mother. After winning a beauty contest and the title 'Miss Hollywood', she worked as an extra in several silent films, including the original Ben Hur (1926) and Lewis Milestone's Two Arabian Knights (1927). While on location for the latter film, she volunteered for a stunt. Asked to jump out of a boat and pretend to drown, she was almost too convincing; she couldn't swim.

In 1932, while under contract to RKO, she was loaned to Paramount for the day to pose in some publicity photographs with WC Fields. She and the comedian were immediately attracted to one another, and remained together for the rest of Fields's life. During those years, Monti sang in nightclubs and appeared in such films as One Night of Love (1934), Robin Hood of El Dorado (1936), Barbary Coast (1936), and Fields's Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941). Her roles in these productions were small and unrewarding, but in The Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935), she had the key role of Fields's faithful secretary, and gave an effective performance.

After the comedian's death in 1946, Monti lost a long struggle with the Fields family over his fortune. She worked for Technicolor Incorporated, and acted as special kitchen supervisor to a number of restaurants. In 1976 Universal Pictures used her memoir as the basis for W. C. Fields and Me, in which Fields was portrayed by Rod Steiger and Carlotta Monti by Valerie Perrine.

(Photograph omitted)