Up 15,823 this week

The Old Fashioned Way (1934)

Passed  -  Comedy  -  13 July 1934 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.6/10 from 627 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 7 critic

The Great McGonigle and his troupe of third-rate vaudevillians manage to stay one step ahead of the bill collectors and the sheriff.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 11 more credits »
0Check in

On Disc

at Amazon

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 93 titles
created 23 Mar 2012
a list of 42 titles
created 04 Feb 2013
a list of 29 titles
created 9 months ago
a list of 35 titles
created 8 months ago
a list of 29 images
created 7 months ago

Related Items

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: The Old Fashioned Way (1934)

The Old Fashioned Way (1934) on IMDb 7.6/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of The Old Fashioned Way.

User Polls

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Certificate: Passed Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A hard-drinking, socially-awkward inventor wrecks his daughter's chances of marriage into a rich family and bungles his own chances of success by selling one of his more practical inventions.

Director: Erle C. Kenton
Stars: W.C. Fields, Joan Marsh, Buster Crabbe
Certificate: Passed Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Hard-working, henpecked Ambrose Ambrose Wolfinger takes off from work to go to a wrestling match with catastrophic consequences.

Directors: Clyde Bruckman, W.C. Fields
Stars: W.C. Fields, Kathleen Howard, Mary Brian
Certificate: Passed Animation | Comedy | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

The Bellows family causes comic confusion on an ocean liner, with time out for radio-style musical acts.

Director: Mitchell Leisen
Stars: W.C. Fields, Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Larson E. Whipsnade runs a seedy circus which is perpetually in debt. His performers give him nothing but trouble, especially Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Meanwhile, Whipsnade's son ... See full summary »

Directors: George Marshall, Edward F. Cline
Stars: W.C. Fields, Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy
Certificate: Passed Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Assorted wacky characters converge on a Chinese hotel to bid on a new invention...television.

Director: A. Edward Sutherland
Stars: W.C. Fields, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Rudy Vallee
Certificate: Passed Short | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

The prodigal son of a Yukon prospector comes home on a night that "ain't fit for man nor beast."

Director: Clyde Bruckman
Stars: W.C. Fields, Rosemary Theby, George Chandler
Poppy (1936)
Certificate: Passed Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Carny con artist and snake-oil salesman Eustace McGargle tries to stay one step ahead of the sheriff but is completely devoted to his beloved daughter Poppy.

Director: A. Edward Sutherland
Stars: W.C. Fields, Rochelle Hudson, Richard Cromwell
Certificate: Passed Adventure | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

When David's father dies, his mother remarries. His new stepfather Murdstone has a mean and cruel view on how to raise a child. When David's mother dies from grief, Murdstone sends David to... See full summary »

Director: George Cukor
Stars: Freddie Bartholomew, Frank Lawton, Edna May Oliver
Comedy | Drama | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

During World War II, all the studios put out "all-star" vehicles which featured virtually every star on the lot--often playing themselves--in musical numbers and comedy skits, and were ... See full summary »

Directors: A. Edward Sutherland, John Rawlins
Stars: George Raft, Vera Zorina, Jeanette MacDonald
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Young freewheeling wanderer Jerry Day and his beautiful wife Toni are at odds over their lifestyle. Jerry can't accept responsibility but Toni yearns for a family and a settled life. Then ... See full summary »

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: Gary Cooper, Carole Lombard, Shirley Temple
It's a Gift (1934)
Certificate: Passed Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A henpecked New Jersey grocer makes plans to move to California to grow oranges, despite the resistance of his overbearing wife.

Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Stars: W.C. Fields, Kathleen Howard, Jean Rouverol
Certificate: Passed Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

The Wiggs family plan to celebrate Thanksgiving in their rundown shack with leftover stew, without Mr. Wiggs who wandered off long ago an has never been heard from. Do-gooder Miss Lucy ... See full summary »

Director: Norman Taurog
Stars: Pauline Lord, W.C. Fields, Zasu Pitts


Cast overview, first billed only:
The Great McGonigle / Squire Cribbs in 'The Drunkard'
Joe Morrison ...
Wally Livingston / William Dowton in 'The Drunkard'
Baby LeRoy ...
Albert Pepperday
Judith Allen ...
Betty McGonigle / Agnes Dowton in the 'The Drunkard'
Jan Duggan ...
Cleopatra Pepperday
Tammany Young ...
Nora Cecil ...
Mrs. Wendelschaffer
Jack Mulhall ...
Dick Bronson
Samuel Ethridge ...
Bartley Neuville / Edward Middleton / The Drunkard in 'The Drunkard'
Ruth Marion ...
Agatha Sprague / Mary Wilson in 'The Drunkard'
Richard Carle ...
Sheriff of Barnesville
Larry Grenier ...
Drover Stevens in 'The Drunkard'
William Blatchford ...
Landlord in 'The Drunkard'
Jeffrey Williams ...
Mrs. Arden Renclelaw in 'The Drunkard'
Donald Brown ...
The Minister in 'The Drunkard'


The Great McGonigle's traveling theatrical troupe are staying at a boarding house. They are preparing to put on a production of "The Drunkard" (and do so during this movie). Cleopatra Pepperday puts up money for the show provided she can have a part ("Here comes the prince!"). Little Albert Wendelschaffer torments McGonigle all through lunch ("How can you hurt a watch by dipping it in molasses?"). In spite of being pursued by several sheriffs, McGonigle is able to keep going and see his daughter Betty happily married. Written by Ed Stephan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

13 July 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Compagni d'allegria  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When McGonigle first sees Cleopatra, he says "Who's the old squigelum over there?" "Squigelum" is a Fields nonsense word. He would use it again in "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break" to describe the kissing game he teaches Ouliotta Hemogloben. See more »


Dick Bronson: Mr. McGonigle, I've got to have some money.
The Great McGonigle: Yes, my lad, how much?
Dick Bronson: Two dollars.
The Great McGonigle: If I had two dollars, I'd start a number two company.
Dick Bronson: For two cents I'd quit.
The Great McGonigle: [to Marmaduke] Pay him off!
[Marmaduke gives him a two cent stamp]
See more »

Crazy Credits

The end credits are in 2 parts; the first contain the actors and their character names in the film as a whole; The second contains the actors and their character names in the play, "The Drunkard." Five actors, therefore, are credited twice: W.C. Fields, Joe Morrison, Judith Allen, Samuel Ethridge and Ruth Marion. See more »


Featured in W.C. Fields: Straight Up (1986) See more »


Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)
(1851) (uncredited)
Music by Stephen Foster
Played by the band at the opera house
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Playing the sticks with the Great McGonigle & Company
21 May 2005 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

I love this movie! Ever since I first saw it as a kid I've counted it among my favorite W.C. Fields comedies, and when I saw it again recently it was just as funny, warm, and entertaining as ever, maybe all the more so with the passage of time. While it may not be the funniest film he ever made, The Old Fashioned Way is perhaps Fields' most autobiographical work, as it recreates the life of the traveling player at the turn of the last century, a life he experienced personally as a vaudeville juggler. (A newspaper indicates that the story takes place in April 1897, which makes the "new-fangled horseless carriage" mentioned at one point very new indeed.) Fields' early years on the road were said to be pretty rough. He and his fellow performers were forever at the mercy of unscrupulous managers, forced to live in crummy lodgings where they ate poorly, in towns where they were generally regarded as no better than tramps and whores by the disapproving townsfolk. It was not unheard of for those unscrupulous managers to abscond with the box office receipts, stranding the actors in hostile territory without a penny. Yet somehow, with the advantage of hindsight, Fields was able to turn these unhappy memories into great comedy, comedy that also serves as something of a history lesson -- albeit a pleasant one -- for viewers interested in the American stage.

Because Fields was in his mid-50s when he made this film he was able to turn the tables, in a sense: instead of reprising his real-life role as a starving young actor he'd graduated by this time to the role of the unscrupulous manager, known here simply as The Great McGonigle. McGonigle leads a ragtag troupe of players who are touring the hinterland in that ever-popular temperance warhorse, "The Drunkard." As our story begins this troupe is fleeing a town one step ahead of the sheriff, and heading for their next engagement in the village of Bellefontaine, where prospects don't look much better. In desperate need of cash, McGonigle is compelled to woo a local wealthy widow who aspires to the stage, the magnificently named Cleopatra Pepperday (played with appropriate magnificence by Jan Duggan), while in the meantime his daughter is wooed by a college boy who also dreams of performing. The boarding house where the troupe stays serves as the locale for two hilarious comic set-pieces, back-to-back: first, McGonigle's lunch is ruined by Mrs. Pepperday's rowdy toddler Albert, who flings food in his face, grabs his nose, and dunks his pocket watch in molasses. And then, as if he hadn't been punished enough already, McGonigle must listen to Mrs. Pepperday's spirited rendition of "The Sea Shell Song."

These two sequences alone are reason enough to make this movie a must-see comedy classic, and, interestingly, in each of them Fields himself plays victimized straight man: first to Baby LeRoy, then to Jan Duggan, whose rendition of the song is a show-stopping triumph. Fields' reactions to both of these characters are priceless, but it's also worth pointing out that in this instance the notoriously paranoid, cantankerous W.C. Fields, who was said to be deeply jealous of other comedians, generously shared the spotlight with not one but two fellow players -- one of whom was a baby! -- and permitted each to temporarily steal the spotlight, to the ultimate benefit of the project.

The movie's finale consists of the troupe's performance of "The Drunkard" plus a sentimental song or two, and, best of all, McGonigle's juggling act. This extended sequence feels like an authentic recreation of just what an evening at a small-town theater of the period would have been like, from the cheap-looking sets and declamatory acting styles to the heavy curtain that hits the stage with a crash after each scene. The juggling routine is a special treat, as it represents the most complete filmed record of Fields' legendary feats of legerdemain. My only complaint is that there are a few too many cut-away shots showing audience members' reactions; I'd have been perfectly happy to watch the whole routine in a couple of uninterrupted takes, with no reaction shots at all. But in any event, the juggling act is wonderful.

According to a recent biography of W.C. Fields by James Curtis The Old Fashioned Way suffered through a troubled gestation process. Just as the film was going into production Fields' original screenplay, entitled "Playing the Sticks," was found to be somewhat jumbled and too brief to sustain a feature-length movie. Apparently the savior of the project was an unheralded screenwriter named Jack Cunningham, then known primarily for his earlier work on Westerns such as The Covered Wagon and a couple of Douglas Fairbanks vehicles. It was Cunningham who reworked and expanded Fields' original script into the seamless story it became, and who chose to interpolate the sequences from "The Drunkard." He also persuaded Fields to dust off his old juggling act for the finale. If this background information is correct, then viewers owe a debt of thanks to Mr. Cunningham for his important contribution to this terrifically entertaining, funny, and nostalgic slice of theatrical Americana.

24 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
The Old Fashioned Way coming to DVD on 03/20/2007. dfc99
Discuss The Old Fashioned Way (1934) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: