Poppy

  • 1936
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy, Drama

A somewhat disappointing sound remake of the Fields-D.W. Griffith silent classic SALLY OF THE SAWDUST (1925), in turn based on the hit 1923 stage play that propelled vaudevillian Fields to stardom. While the addition of sound enables the audience to hear Fields' wonderful carny patter and his mumbling asides, the comedian's poor health prevented him from...read more

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A somewhat disappointing sound remake of the Fields-D.W. Griffith silent classic SALLY OF THE SAWDUST (1925), in turn based on the hit 1923 stage play that propelled vaudevillian Fields to stardom. While the addition of sound enables the audience to hear Fields' wonderful carny patter and

his mumbling asides, the comedian's poor health prevented him from performing his more amazing physical comedy and kept his scenes in the film to a minimum. The film opens as Fields, a traveling hustler and con man who works small towns with his adopted daughter Hudson, decides to ply his dubious

trade at a fair in the town of Green Acres. Fields spots a stray dog, catches the pup, and takes it to the local watering hole. There Fields sets the dog on the bar and asks it what it will have. Using ventriloquism, Fields has the dog answer, "Milk in a saucer." The amazed bartender immediately

offers to buy the dog for $20. Fields takes the money and heads for the door. The dog shouts at Fields, "Just for selling me, I'll never talk again." Field's sadly informs the bartender, "He probably means it, too. He's awfully stubborn," and leaves the dog and the bartender locked in stony

silence. Fields and Hudson set up a booth at the fair and fool customers into giving up their money to the shell game. Fields fleeces the other concession operators, fooling a hot dog vendor into giving him two hot dogs for free. During the fair Hudson, meets and falls in love with the mayor's

son, Cromwell. Meanwhile, Fields learns that the Putnam family, a very rich and well established clan, is being forced to auction off their estate because the legal heir disappeared when she was a baby. Fields has a crooked lawyer friend draw up a document stating that Hudson is the missing

heiress. Fields' scheme conflicts with Hudson's plans, however; she and Cromwell become engaged. At a party celebrating the event, Fields wrangles some of the upper-crust crowd into a bizarre game of croquet (which Fields derived in part from his classic golf routine). Eventually Fields' plan to

pass off Hudson as the heir to the Putnam fortune is uncovered, and the wedding is off. Hudson runs away and is sheltered by a kindly woman, Eburne, who has befriended her. Eburne, who knew the Putnam family intimately, recognizes a resemblance between Hudson and the late Mrs. Putnam. Suspicions

are confirmed when a locket is discovered that proves Hudson is actually the missing Putnam heir after all. The good news rights everything: the marriage goes on as planned, and Fields can stop running from the police. In what is supposed to be a very moving and emotional scene between father and

daughter after Hudson informs Fields she will no longer be his traveling companion, Fields gently tells her, "Let me give you one word of fatherly advice.... Never give a sucker an even break." While POPPY is frequently very funny and contains some priceless Fields moments like the talking dog

scene, it suffers for the very reason that such scenes are few and far between. Fields was working under a myriad of health problems at the time (many brought on by heavy drinking), and, during the shooting of POPPY, he fell off an old-fashioned bicycle--his police-escape vehicle--and broke a

vertebra. The comedian was forced to play the rest of his scenes wearing a restricting back-brace device that was hidden under his costume. His pain was frequent and intense, but Fields would play a scene flawlessly--and then pass out when the filming stopped. Because of these problems, Fields'

scenes were cut drastically, a double (Johnny Sinclair) was used for the comedian in long shots and over-the-shoulder shots, and needless subplot and musical numbers were used to fill the gaps. It is a pity that neither film version of Fields' 1923 Broadway hit managed to capture the performer in

his full glory, but the snatches we are left with are testament enough to the great talent and courage of its star.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A somewhat disappointing sound remake of the Fields-D.W. Griffith silent classic SALLY OF THE SAWDUST (1925), in turn based on the hit 1923 stage play that propelled vaudevillian Fields to stardom. While the addition of sound enables the audience to hear F… (more)

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