Monday, October 27, 2008

Polly of the Circus (1932)

In Polly of the Circus, Clark Gable plays a man of the cloth (as he did in Laughing Sinners the year before), this time falling for a circus trapeze artist, Marion Davies. But - their church refuses to accept her as his wife, so she runs back to the circus to kill herself from great heights. Can Clark Gable reach her in time? Will Polly of the Circus have a happy ending?


Based on a 1907 play, Polly of the Circus is best described as nearly worthless product - a hollow commodity. A harsh-sounding call, I suppose, but they didn't even try to write a good screenplay for this film. The gears of the plot have been so overused (even when the film was made) that the shape of the final product is clear from the start. There's barely a moment of spontaneity present because the absurd plot demands it. Emotional outbursts come out of left-field because the plot demands it. In short, all sorts of far-fetched machinations transpire because the sappy plot demands it. The only extraneous thing in the film is a bizarre little conflict involving Raymond Hatten as an alcoholic church servant, in a role alternately creepy and "humorous".

Marion Davies, who thrived on improvisation and quick wit, is wasted in this vehicle. Gable doesn't suffer quite as badly, but C. Aubrey Smith, as his judgemental father, relies on Grand Gestures, playing to the back seats as if he's in a 1915 Theda Bara movie.

For what it's worth, this movie bombed at the box office, and Gable hated the script so much he walked off the set. Good for him.

Only recommended for Clark Gable and Marion Davies completists.

Polly of the Circus is available on Warner Archives DVD-R.