“I don’t believe that talk, Henry. I believe she is a good girl, no matter what anyone says.”
Carnival cardsharp Eustace McGargle (W.C. Fields) adopts the daughter (Carol Dempster) of a society woman who ran away from her disapproving parents (Erville Alderson and Effie Shannon) after marrying a circus man. When Sally (Dempster) grows up, McGargle decides it may be time to introduce her to her real family, and takes her to her hometown of Green Meadows, where Sally falls in love with a wealthy young man (Alfred Lunt).
Critics have noted that this relatively late-career outing by D.W. Griffith (which unfortunately displays none of his distinctive directorial genius) would have remained merely a historical curiosity if it hadn’t offered W.C. Fields his first leading role in a film. Based on a 1923 musical play, the film’s storyline — as in the 1936 remake, Poppy — is strictly pedestrian melodrama, complete with an unrealistically happy ending and far too much slapstick humor. What makes it worth at least a cursory look are two primary elements: the opportunity to see a slightly slimmer Fields in a non-speaking role, performing some of his most famous carnival routines without the benefit of his characteristically nasal twang; and the remarkably “modern” central performance by Griffith’s real-life mistress, Dempster, a leggy, athletic, unconventional beauty reminiscent of Australian actress Rachel Griffiths.
Note: Apparently Dempster’s best role was in Isn’t Life Wonderful? (1924), a highly regarded Griffith film which isn’t listed in Peary’s book, and which I haven’t seen.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- An interesting glimpse at Fields in a non-speaking role
- Carol Dempster as Sally
No; this one is only must-see for diehard W.C. Fields fans.