“If we should ever separate, my little plum, I want to give you just one bit of fatherly advice: never give a sucker an even break!”
A con-artist (W.C. Fields) traveling through a small town attempts to pass off his grown daughter, Poppy (Rochelle Hudson), as the long-lost heiress to a local fortune; meanwhile, Poppy falls in love with the mayor’s son (Richard Cromwell), causing scandal in the town.
Based on a 1923 musical comedy, and turned into the silent film Sally of the Sawdust by D.W. Griffith in 1925, this W.C. Fields vehicle features the iconoclastic comedian in one of his signature roles, that of Professor Eustace McGargle. Despite being in enormous physical pain during the film’s production (read here for more details), Fields acquits himself admirably throughout, and it’s fun to see him slickly conning his way through several humorous situations: passing off a “talking” dog to a gullible barman; ordering lavishly garnished hotdogs he has no intention of paying for. Meanwhile, Hudson does a fine job retaining our sympathy in a tricky role which requires her to exhibit both charming innocence and unconditional love towards a father she knows to be a shyster. Unfortunately, the entire narrative upon which the film is based — particularly Hudson’s “scandalizing” cross-class romance with Cromwell — is both weak and stale; there’s really nothing new under the sun here. This one is primarily worth a look simply to see a few instances of Fields doing what he does best: conning the world, one scam at a time.
Note: I really do believe Fields was at his best in con-man roles, rather than the other archetype he often inhabited: that of a henpecked martyr.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- W.C. Fields as Professor McGargle
- Rochelle Hudson as Poppy
No, but it’s worth a look simply for a few amusing sequences. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.