Polly of the Circus (1932)

Storyline

When Polly Fisher, a circus aerialist, is hurt while performing, she is taken to the house of a nearby minister, John Hartley. As she recuperates, they fall in love with each other and secretly marry. But when the truth leaks out , John’s congregation rebels at having a circus woman as their minister’s wife, and he is fired. Polly decides to leave John in hopes of giving back to him the calling that means so much to him. But fate steps in and rearranges all plans.

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Old Chestnut.

21 July 2010 | by nova-63 (Canada) – See all my reviews

Davies stars as a trapeze artist who comes into contact with a young clergyman (Clark Gable). Eventually the two develop a relationship and much to his family’s dismay, they marry.

The film begins to fall apart here with a series of long winded, hard to swallow scenes. The married couple has a falling out over his devotion to the church. Marion realizes for the first time that she is bad for her husband’s career. This is so, despite the fact that she has been told this from the moment the two became interested in each other.

After stating her displeasure with his dedication to the church, she turns around and decides she must leave her husband so he can further his career. She is willing to do this because she loves him so much. Marion’s plan is to divorce her husband, but when she is told by the reverend (played by C Aubrey Smith) that this is impossible she comes up with another plan. She will go back to the circus and fall during the trapeze act. Committing suicide so then she will no longer be a detriment to her husband’s future.

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As a rule, I have no problem with ridiculous melodrama. But the screenplay is weak and the acting staid. This film is based on an old chestnut of a play that was probably outdated when it was first filmed in 1917. The wrong side of the tracks girl and the clergyman is a great story in theory, but the film fails to make the relationship believable. Old Chestnut.

21 July 2010 | by nova-63 (Canada) – See all my reviews

Davies stars as a trapeze artist who comes into contact with a young clergyman (Clark Gable). Eventually the two develop a relationship and much to his family’s dismay, they marry.

The film begins to fall apart here with a series of long winded, hard to swallow scenes. The married couple has a falling out over his devotion to the church. Marion realizes for the first time that she is bad for her husband’s career. This is so, despite the fact that she has been told this from the moment the two became interested in each other.

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After stating her displeasure with his dedication to the church, she turns around and decides she must leave her husband so he can further his career. She is willing to do this because she loves him so much. Marion’s plan is to divorce her husband, but when she is told by the reverend (played by C Aubrey Smith) that this is impossible she comes up with another plan. She will go back to the circus and fall during the trapeze act. Committing suicide so then she will no longer be a detriment to her husband’s future.

As a rule, I have no problem with ridiculous melodrama. But the screenplay is weak and the acting staid. This film is based on an old chestnut of a play that was probably outdated when it was first filmed in 1917. The wrong side of the tracks girl and the clergyman is a great story in theory, but the film fails to make the relationship believable.

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She Flies Through The Air

10/10
Author: Ron Oliver (revilorest@juno.com) from Forest Ranch, CA
21 December 2004

After a bad fall from the trapeze, POLLY OF THE CIRCUS recuperates in the home of a handsome young clergyman.

Marion Davies uses her considerable talent to enliven this piece of inconsequential fluff, making it an enjoyable time waster. As the mistress of one of the country’s most powerful men, she could have easily demanded a solemn spectacle to spotlight her skills. But her ego did not run in that direction and, as always, she’s a delight to watch–even though the film itself (which she also produced) is exceedingly silly.

MGM&’s newest young leading man, Clark Gable, is quietly effective as the rector who wins Davies’ heart. Cast somewhat against type, he gives an earnest portrayal of a man devoted to God above almost anything else. The macho mannerisms which later became such a dominate part of his screen roles are largely missing here. And it’s obvious that he never forgets that he’s the co-star — Marion Davies is the one who gets to shine.

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Wonderful old Sir C. Aubrey Smith lends his grave dignity to the role of Gable’s uncle, the bishop. Elderly Raymond Hatton steals a couple of scenes as the rectory’s self-righteous, alcoholic servant. David Landau is effective as the goodhearted circus manager. Comic actress Maude Eburne appears all too briefly as Davies’ Irish nurse–but the viewer is treated to Davies’ impersonation of her.

Movie mavens will recognize an unbilled Ray Milland as a church usher.

Although obviously using actual trapeze artists as stunt doubles, the aerial sequences under the circus big top are still nerve-wracking to watch.

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Sex Appeal Not Saintliness

5/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
27 January 2009

Marion Davies and her famous sugar daddy William Randolph Hearst selected a curious item for this film. Polly Of The Circus was a Broadway play in the first decade of the last century which must have been quite a sight. Looking at the original stage cast included a family of acrobats for this circus story. This was many years before Rodgers&Hart produced the ultimate circus show extravaganza, Jumbo.

The play was authored by Margaret Mayo and it premiered on New Year’s Eve and ran 160 performances in 1908. Nine years later a film version was done starring Mae Marsh. The story is about a circus trapeze artist whose legs are on prominent display in the poster advertising offending the moral sensibilities of the church folks. The setting is Oneonta, New York and the local bishop of the Episcopal church (and I’m guessing by the vestments the domination)is headquartered there and played by C. Aubrey Smith.

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Smith has a young nephew starting out in his church and he’s played by Clark Gable. Gable’s no more believable here as a minister than he was as a Salvation Army Worker opposite Joan Crawford in Laughing Sinners. But Gable was cast for sex appeal not saintliness.

Davies takes a fall off the trapeze and Gable takes her to his and Smith’s house to mend. Of course they fall for each other and a nasty house servant played by Raymond Hatton spreads some vicious gossip. Smith has to listen to it and it derails Gable’s promising career in the church.

I imagine Polly Of The Circus was probably something W.R. Hearst saw back in 1908 on stage and liked it and kept in mind for Marion Davies when he started seeing her. It’s a quaint old fashioned play, the stuff that Hearst liked for Davies. It was old fashioned in 1932 and certainly is in 2009.

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Not so bad but not the best movie in Movie History!

Author: msladysoul (msladysoul@aol.com) from Michigan
29 June 2004

Marion Davies and Clark Gable makes movie enjoyable. It’s not the best classic movie but if you have nothing to do and have 70 mins to spare you’ll like it. It’s short and sweet, if it was longer maybe that would of been a problem. Marion Davies always makes a film enjoyable. Movie Historians try to say that the only reason Marion was a movie star was because of her association with William Randolph Hearst, that’s not true. Marion always gave good performances, if she didn’t maybe I would think that. Marion was good with comedy and drama which she displays in this movie. Marion was a fine comedian, fine actress, great with facial expressions and gestures, and natural. This movie is a Marion Davies production. She was good with coming up with plots and stories and getting great cast. Clark Gable is good in whatever he is. This movie isn’t his greatest. But Clark Gable fans would like to see this.

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