Polly of the Circus (1932)
Release Date: February 27,1932
Directed by: Alfred Santell
C. Aubrey Smith
Available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Gable is Father John Hartley, a small town minister living a peaceful life. The circus
comes to town, with its star attraction: trapeze artist Polly Fisher (Davies). She is
enraged when her risqué posters are covered up and confronts Hartley, who admits that her posters aren’t appropriate in the town. The crowd mocks her at her next performance, causing her to fall. She recuperates at Hartley’s house at his insistence since he feels guilty. Soon they fall in love. But his parish and bishop uncle (Smith) don’t support him marrying a circus girl. When the church turns its back on him, the newlyweds struggle as he refuses to let her return to the circus and she doesn’t understand his devotion to the church.
Photoplay magazine, April 1932:
No horror here, no gangsters, and Clark Gable never once socks the beautiful Marion Davies in “Polly of the Circus.” Pure sentiment, and Lord how we need it these days in pictures, No matter how often you have seen or read this well-known story, you will want to discover it in its talkie form. And there’s fine suspense in the last scenes that the original didn’t have.
Modern Screen magazine, May 1932:
The popular old circus story has been revamped in a much beter vein with modern and peppy ideas. Marion Davies, as Polly, the trapeze gal in love with the minister, has never been more beautifully photographed. The part affords Marion plenty of opportunity for both comedy and drama. Clark Gable is not so happy in the role of the minister and it’s a credit to the real talent of this young actor that he is at all believable. And because the yarn is so obvious from the start, great credit should be given Al Santell, the director, for maintaining the entertaining tempo. The trapeze scenes will thrill you. And you’ll find Marion even more delightful that usual.
New Movie magazine, May 1932:
Marion Davies and Clark Gable both changed their personalities a bit to fit “Polly of the Circus.” Marion changed from a comedienne into a dramatic actress, and Clark changed from a dee-vine he-man into a he-man divine. She’s a circus star who’s injured, and he’s a young minister in whose home she recovers, thus becoming the common enemy of every woman in the parish. There’s nothing new about the story–it has been imitated too often since its appearance in silent days. It’s still sentimental. I’m happy to report that it’s also sprightly. And it’s novelty to see Clark making love wearing his collar backward.
Picture Play magazine, August 1932:
Marion Davies, a trapeze perfomer, is injured and taken to the home who has disapproved of her tights. she doesn’t wear them during her convalescence, however, but an inexhaustable series of smartly simple costumes that looks as if they had cost a hundred and fifty dollars apiece.
Clergyman and actress marry, the latter step costing the minister his pulpit. So the aeralist returns to the sawdust intent on making a fatal fall to free her husband, but he returns in time to reclaim her. He and his uncle, a bishop, stand in the ring calling joyously to suicidal Polly poised on the trapeze.
This will acquaint those who need to know the shallowness of the story, but no words of mine can describe the ineptitude of the picture as a whole. Miss Davies, a sparkling, unflagging comedienne, is not acceptable when indignant or wistful. Clark Gable, in surplice and stole, reading from the Scriptures with a stained-glass expression of sanctity, is deplorable.
“Yes? Oh, well ask him to come down.” first line
“I’ll see you tomorrow, you big gorilla!”
“That’s one theory. There’s another.”
“Oh yes, I quite approve of marriage. I might even go so far as to get married myself
“Polly…did you say that and mean it?”
“Downey, I’ve had about as much of you as any man can stand. Get out of this house!”
“Of course he’ll like you. How can he help it?”
“So you see, darling, you bring me luck.”
“Polly, are you trying to tell me you don’t love me?”
“So all these months you’ve just been as what you’d call, kidding me along.”
“Well I suppose if I’d been a little more sophisticated, I’d have known. A small town minister shouldn’t be expected to know.”
“Polly!” last line
Behind the Scenes:
The original play premiered in 1907. Gable acted in the play as a bit player in 1922.
Gable and Davies had a brief fling during filming, despite Davies’ long time relationship with publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst (whose Cosmopolitan Pictures produced the film). Although the affair didn’t last, their friendship did and they remained friends for years.
Used to playing gangsters and tough guys, Gable balked at playing a preacher. Hearst begged and pleaded and even offered Gable a $10,000 car. Gable was insulted that Hearst thought he could be bribed and refused the car, stating that he would only do the role if the script was rewritten.
During filming, MGM renewed Gable’s one year contract and his salary went from $650/week to $1,500/week for two years.