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 »
Edward F. Cline
Many passengers on the Shanghai Express are more concerned that the notorious Shanghai Lil is on board than the fact that a civil war is going on that may make the trip take more than three... See full summary »
Josef von Sternberg
Anna May Wong
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 »
Edna May Oliver
Tillie and Augustus Winterbottom are thought to be missionaries when they arrive to find Phineas Pratt trying cheat the Sheridans out of her father's inheritance, including a ferry ... See full summary »
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 »
Poppy, daughter of carnival medicine salesman Professor McGargle, falls in love with the Mayor's son. Countess Maggie Tubbs DePuizzi is claimant to the Putnam estates, but McGargle and lawyer Wiffen plot to make Poppy claim the fortune. Wiffen and the Countess double-cross the Professor, but kindly Sarah Tucker notices a resemble between Poppy and the deceased Mrs. Putnam. It turns out that McGargle adopted the girl, she is the rightful heir, the purported Countess is only a showgirl, and every one has a happy ending. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
When POPPY was filmed, W.C. Fields was in poor health. Suffering from back pain, he had to wear a kind of corset to keep his back straight. His condition was aggravated when he fell off a bicycle during shooting, fracturing a vertebra. This apparently accounts for Fields' relatively limited screen time, despite his top billing. But when he does appear, he shows no signs of illness. Indeed his humorously iconoclastic personality dominates the film.
It is a blessing that Fields is in this film at all. Without him, POPPY would be forgettable. The late 19th century settings, particularly a carnival locale, are pleasing to the eye. Director Edward Sutherland imbues this milieu with pastoral charm, evoking a nostalgia for a simpler, more innocent time. Never mind if that time wasn't actually as rosy as this film indicates.
Alas, the charming period atmosphere cannot enhance the tired scenario. The romance between Poppy (Rochelle Hudson), a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and Billy Farnsworth (Richard Cromwell), a boy from a wealthy and prestigious family, was old hat even in 1936. Hudson is bland and Cromwell is wooden, so one feels little empathy toward them.
Fields rescues POPPY from tedium. As Poppy's guardian Professor Eustace McGargle, he flimflams his way through everything. His larcenousness provide for some wonderful routines that elevates the film to classic comedy such as when he cons a bartender (Wade Boteler) into purchasing a "talking" dog and when he tries to get hot dogs for himself and Poppy without paying. These bits remain in one's memory after the love story is forgotten. Fields also reveals a tender, avuncular side in his intimate moments with Hudson. One understands her dedication to him, despite his crookedness.
POPPY does not rank among Fields' best work. But it demonstrates his greatness not only in that he rises above ordinary material, but that he vigorously soldiers throughout his scenes despite his real life ailments.
6 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?