Sally Of The Sawdust

399. SALLY OF THE SAWDUST (1925-USA). With W.C. fields, carol dempster, alfred lunt. Directed by D.W. GRIFFITH. Two of the cinema’s greatest talents- W.C. Fields and D.W. Griffith- teamed to create this captivating blend of comedy, romance, sentimentality and melodrama. Fields’ first major movie, it established his distinctive screen personality and assured his stardom. Fields is Professor Eustace McGargle (a part he’d played on Broadway for over a year), a circus juggler whose cynical exterior and success as a con man and pocket-picker barely conceal his heart of gold. He has raised Sally (the charming Carol Dempster, Griffith’s leading protŽgŽe at the time)-who assists him and does acrobatics and dance routines-since her parents’ deaths. After the two engage in an epic brawl with some men he’s cheated in the old shell game, McGargle decides that circus life is too rough for Sally. He locates her wealthy grandparents, the Fosters, but when he sees that Judge Foster is a harsh man who hates show people, McGargle postpones revealing Sally’s identity. The judge becomes angered by his wife’s friendÂship with Sally, and by the girl’s romance with a wealthy young man (Alfred Lunt). When McGargle narrowly escapes arrest for conducting a three-card monte game, the judge seizes the opportunity and tries Sally as an accomplice. This sets up a classic Griffith cross-cut, last-minute rescue sequence. McGargle, having eluded a gang of bootlegÂgers, races recklessly (and hilariously) back to town, as Sally herself escapes the courtroom by climbing and jumping in flamboyant Fairbanks fashion-all leading to an exciting and heartwarming conclusion. While thef ilm displays Griffith’s directorial genius, it’s dearly a vehicle for Fields; he juggles skillfully, has typical difficulties keeping his hat on converts a peanut wagon into a rolling bar, almost gets burned alive while trying to warm himself in a baker’s oven, and has the first of his many uproarious run-ins with the police. There’s also a vintage Fields scene where a gardener inadvertently waters McGargle’s trousers and McGargleÑmisunderstanding the source of the sprinklingÑkicks an uncomprehending puppy who happens to be nearby. Throughout, Fields’ personality is so strong, you’d swear you can hear his voice In fact, Fields’ 1936 talkie remake, “Poppy” (the original title of the play) is far inferior as a showcase for his talents. This is a unique classic of the Silent screen! Silent film with music score, correct projection speed. 124 minutes. D.W. Criffith