SALLY OF THE SAWDUST & Pool Sharks
Live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner
(1925, D.W. Griffith) Sideshow “Professor” Eustace McGargle and ward Carole Dempster leave the carny to pursue respectability, but it’s hard to quit swindling those suckers. Based on Fields’ stage hitPoppy; remade in 1936 (see tomorrow’s program). Plus Fields re-creates one of his vaude acts in Pool Sharks (1915), his film debut.
“The movie gives you Fields’s gestures, and it’s remarkable how eloquent they are. Each flutter of the walking stick, each great-bellied advance into pomposity, calls up on your mental soundtrack that elaborate drawl… McGargle is old-fashioned in his rascality, embodying the world of small-time burlesque and vaudeville in which Fields had served his apprenticeship.”
– The New York Times
“The movie that launched WC Fields. His show-stopping performance as Eustace McGargle, conman and sideshow juggler, contains the seeds of all his later glories. Highlights are his 'find the lady' routines, and his struggles to get out of an overheating oven or to master a juggernaut Ford, the latter as it crosses a furrowed field. There's also Carol Dempster's best role in a Griffith film as the tomboy heroine; and Griffith himself clearly found some rapport with his own vaudeville childhood in the backstage circus scenes.”
– Time Out (London)
“This 1925 silent comedy gave W.C. Fields his first big movie role, under the direction of no less than D.W. Griffith, and it's fascinating to see how much of the Fields persona was communicated physically… Griffith stresses the story's melodrama, making Fields an unusually sentimental figure, though the star still manages to showcase some of his juggling routines and even kick a dog.”
– Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
"Demonstrates that, whatever the ostensible genre, Griffith remains the master manipulator of human emotion."
– J. Hoberman, Village Voice
POOL SHARKS: “The importance of this picture cannot be minimized. It is Fields’ first filmed battle with a child. Near the end of the movie W.C. is caught taking great gulps from a bottle of booze, his recorded affection for ‘angel’s milk.’ And, after all, this is Field’ introduction to legitimate filmmaking.”
– Ronald J. Fields, W.C. Fields: A Life on Film