Beery and Cooper are teamed again in a film that follows their earlier success, THE CHAMP (1931), in almost every respect. Only settings and other incidental elements have been changed. This one takes place in the circus, where Beery is the animal trainer and his wife is an acrobat.
Everything goes fine for the threesome (Spanky is the third family member, playing a younger version of Cooper) until Beery's sister-in-law pays a visit and tears into him with her claws outstretched. When Beery comes back drunk from a party thrown in his honor by the owner of the circus, Haden
(the sister-in-law) convinces her sister that Beery is a ne'er-do-well. The woman believes her, taking her son and moving in with Haden. Beery discovers his wife and child gone just prior to opening a new act involving a tiger and an elephant, placing him in an unstable condition, unfit for the
ring. Beery loses his arm to the tiger and eventually, his confidence abandons him. Meanwhile, his wife dies and Cooper is left in the care of Haden, who continually fills the boy's head with visions of his father as worthless and responsible for his mother's early death. When Cooper is old enough
to attend military school, he starts to spend the summer with his father. At first their relationship is strained, with Cooper distrustful of Beery, seeing him through the eyes of his aunt. As the boy gets to know what his father is like, he also understands that the things Haden has been telling
him are lies. The presence of Cooper helps to build Beery's confidence enough to get him back inside the cage with a tiger, leading to the animal trainer's comeback. The film is designed to wrench as much sympathy as possible, relying on the earlier teamings of Cooper and Beery to evoke immediate
emotional responses. Neither Beery nor Cooper do much acting in roles that are basically walk-throughs for them by this time, though Haden is brilliant as the catty and cunning aunt. As in THE CHAMP and later, TREASURE ISLAND, Cooper did not enjoy the company of Beery. Beery, in all his films with
Cooper, tried to steal every scene from the boy, mugging and gesturing so fiercely as to draw down the wrath of directors.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Beery and Cooper are teamed again in a film that follows their earlier success, THE CHAMP (1931), in almost every respect. Only settings and other incidental elements have been changed. This one takes place in the circus, where Beery is the animal trainer… (more)