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Sally of the Sawdust (1925)

Cast: Carol Dempster, Carol Dempster, W.C. Fields, more...
Director: D.W. Griffith, D.W. Griffith
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Image Entertainment
Genre: Comedies, Romantic Comedy, Silent, Silent Comedies, Silent Comedy
Running Time: 113 min.
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Pioneering filmmaker D.W. Griffith directed W.C. Fields in his first starring role in this silent comedy. When Mary Foster runs away from home to marry her sweetheart, a circus performer, she does so against the wishes of her socially prominent parents (Erville Alderson and Effie Shannon), who make no secret of their anger and disappointment. Mary begins travelling with her husband, and she makes friends with Prof. Eustace McGargle (W.C. Fields), a crusty but good-hearted cardsharp working with the carnival. When both Mary and her husband die, their daughter Sally is left in McGargle's care. Sally grows to adulthood (now played by Carol Dempster) and becomes a dancer with the circus; while McGargle has grown quite fond of the child, he wonders if she might not be better off with her grandparents, who can better provide for her and give her a stable home, though he's kept their identity a secret from her. While performing in the town of Green Meadows, Sally catches the eye of the wealthy and charming Payton Lennox (Alfred Lunt), but Sally must overcome the prejudices of Payton's parents, who do not consider a showgirl to be fit company for their son. However, a sympathetic local woman hires Sally to dance at an upcoming society recital -- not knowing that Sally is, in fact, her granddaughter. Sally of the Sawdust was based on a play that Fields had starred in on Broadway; he also starred in a sound remake entitled Poppy. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Carol Dempster should have been a comedienne by highgrove April 2, 2006 - 1:46 PM PDT
While admittedly I am being presumptious in judging Dempster on the basis of two films--America and Sally of the Sawdust--these are the only two that are available on DVD! Most film series devoted to Griffin show only his earlier pictures with the brilliant Lillian Gish, and in comparing Miss Dempster's wooden performance in the boring, overlong America to Miss Gish's radiant, mesmerizing performances in Broken Blossoms, Way Down East, and Orphans of the Storm, you can't help but think all the film critics who dismiss Griffith's later career and the demerits of Carol Dempster weren't right--until you see Sally of the Sawdust. She showed excellent comic timing, danced with grace and elegance, and played with W.C Fields, one of the best comics in the business, as a real team in this picture of a pair of circus performers who, unbeknowst to the girl, are trying to introduce her to her real grandparents. The film is very funny and holds your attention quite well as a result of the interplay between Fields and Dempster. While I would have to see more of her films to get a better idea of her talent--and it's a shame that more of Griffith's post-Gish oeuvre hasn't been released on DVD--I think Griffith made his biggest mistake in trying to remake her in the Mae Marsh/Lillian Gish fragile, imperiled epic heroine mold--he would have been better off casting her in the spunky, comic Dorothy Gish/Mary Pickford/Mabel Normand comedienne type. Chances are his career would have fared much better in the twenties if he had.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.57)
7 Votes
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