starring W.C. Fields and Carol Dempster


November, 1925

Here's a fine picture bearing the D.W. Griffith trademark. It tells in the director's best manner a most compelling love story, one saturated with pointed comedy which is always well balanced with pathos. It travels its course with engaging charm and wit, showing sentiment where it belongs and satire, too. W.C. Fields, who plays the mirthful faker to the life, has an amazing comedy sense, and Griffith has permitted him carte blanche to color his role with his personality and complete bag of tricks. Carol Dempster contributes a performance full of feeling. She is spirited and tender, wistful and charming, a new Dempster, surely.


starring W.C. Fields and Carol Dempster


August, 1925

This is rampant hokum yet it is bully entertainment. I want to say, without qualification, that it is Griffith's best picture since "Way Down East." You are sure to like it.

Griffith is Himself Again

Curiously, "Sally of the Sawdust" is best in the just the field that Griffith has been weakest - comedy. Griffith's humor has always seemed a terrible thing to me. In the past, he has repeatedly touched me with many poignant moments but he had never been able to get a laugh out of me.

"Sally of the Sawdust" is genuinely funny - boisterously funny without effort. Possibly a great deal of this is due to W.C. Fields, the Ziegfeld Follies comedian. Fields has appeared in pictures before. He made a series of small comedies, and he played in a Marion Davies film. Here, however, he bursts upon the silver-screen horizon as a comedian, more unctuous and mellow than any fun maker has been since John Bunny.

"Sally of the Sawdust" was adapted form a musical comedy, "Poppy," and the plot is pretty awful. Fields plays one Professor McGargle, sideshow faker. McGargle has a ward, little Sally, whose grandparents are the wealthiest - and most exclusive - people of a small New England town. The plot, such as it is, revolves around the adventures of McGargle and Sally and the ultimate reuniting of the little circus acrobat with her rich grandparents.

As I have said, the plot is pertty bad - and yet Griffith has studded it with striking scenes. There is as beautiful a lyric moment as the screen has ever seen, when little Sally comes upon a grave in the family plot of the New England cemetery. There is the loveliest love scene, on the hillside of a private estate, since the little equestrienne of "He Who Gets Slapped" lost her heart to the circus rider upon their woodland excursion.

Carol Dempster's Hit

Let me hasten to comment upon the performance of Carol Dempster as Sally. It was not until "Isn't Life Wonderful" that I thought Miss Dempster could act. Her playing here is approaching genuine cinematic greatness. Her work has softened, gained histrionic breadth, and grown in surprising fashion. She is both moving and humorous in "Sally of the Sawdust," Miss Dempster has arrived.

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