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Sally of the Sawdust
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In a fascinating departure from the austere moral drama in which he specialized, D.W. Griffith demonstrates his talent for warm-hearted comedy with Sally Of The Sawdust. Fresh from the Ziegfeld Follies, W.C. Fields made his second screen appearance as Professor Eustace McGargle, a lovably disreputable confidence man who becomes the unlikely guardian of an orphaned circus waif (Carol Dempster). Intending to return Sally to her grandparents, McGargle learns that her wealthy and esteemed grandfather (Erville Alderson) is a stern judge who harbors a deep contempt for shysters and show people. Faster than a sucker can say "three-card monte," McGargle finds himself wanted by the police and chased by bootleggers, while trying to protect his cherished Sally, who has won the affection of a slumming socialite (Alfred Lunt). Sally provided Griffith ingenue Carol Dempster (whose work for the director is generally overshadowed by that of her predecessors, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish) with a delightful role: the spry, innocent and hot-tempered dancing girl wholly devoted to her criminal "Poppy." At the same time, it showcases the comic juggling and dry wit that would make a legend of W.C. Fields (who remade the film in 1936 under the title of the original play, Poppy.)
- Aspect Ratio : 1.33:1
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- MPAA rating : s_medNotRated NR (Not Rated)
- Product Dimensions : 7.5 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches; 3.5 Ounces
- Director : D.W. Griffith
- Media Format : Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Original recording remastered, Silent
- Run time : 1 hour and 44 minutes
- Release date : November 18, 2008
- Actors : Carol Dempster, W.C. Fields, Alfred Lunt, Erville Alderson, Effie Shannon
- Producers : D.W. Griffith
- Language : Unqualified
- Studio : Kino Lorber films
- ASIN : B001G5T6NK
- Writers : Dorothy Donnelly, Forrest Halsey
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: #115,916 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- Customer Reviews:
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"Sally" is the daughter of a mother who was banished from her once-patrician home because she married a circus feller. The mother dies soon after Sally is born buy the dying mother only worries that Sally should be taken care of. The father has earlier vanished from the scene in an unspecified manner and it falls to Prof McGargle (W.C. Fields), a good-hearted side-show performer and petty swindler, to write to her grandparents to let them know what happened to their daughter, but he doesn't mention Sally.
The grandparents don't respond and McGargle brings up Sally (Carol Dempster) as a sort of innocent (in the midst of carny types) coming into almost excruciatingly adorable young womanhood. Many events and misadventures intervene as Sally and McGargle barrel toward the ultimately happy ending.
It's hard to give a star rating to a movie like this. The story line is, as I said, both maudlin and comic and you know it is likely to all resolve to the expected resolution. Yet it is charming despite (or because of) Dempster's cute mugging and posing; W. C. Fields (only his second role, I understand) is delightful; a talented and natural comic and performer, very recognizable and entertaining despite the lack of his humorous voice. He's surprisingly skinny and light-footed and pulls off the doting "adopted father" well. Carol Dempster is interesting not only for her performance but for her reputed favor with Producer D.W. Griffith (he may have sleeping with her, so produced an atypical comedy for show her off); I have heard that other performers hated her because they said she had no acting style of own, but copied the styles of other actresses. And her being the producer's pet would not bring admiration.
The other "extra" that makes this interesting is that it is supposedly set in Connecticut but it was filmed on Long Island. Before I learned this I kept thinking that the extensive outdoor scenes, buildings and locales looked like Long Island. There is even a dirt crossroads with one of the signs pointing to Hicksville, a familiar Long Island town. So the movie is also a time capsule that I thoroughly enjoyed, notwithstanding my three-star review.