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>
"First you question my financial resources, then you ask me business advice"
No it is not the greatest of W.C. Field's comedies - it does not rank with THE BANK DICK or IT'S A GIFT or THE OLD FASHIONED WAY or even MY LITTLE CHICKADEE. But POPPY is of considerable interests to the many fans of the great misanthropic comic. In 1923 he appeared on stage in POPPY as "EUSTACE McGARGLE". It was the first lead role in a play (as opposed to one or two comic supporting parts, and his years of vaudeville juggling/comic routines, or his years headlining in the Ziefeld Follies) that FIelds had. Interestingly enough his performance on stage enabled him to cross paths with another future movie comedian (though a lesser one in retrospect), Robert Woolsey (of Wheeler and Woolsey), who appeared as a rustic victim of McGargle. The play gave Fields a "Fields" day as a carnival swindler, who was also the foster father of a young woman who Fields/McGargle would try to pass off as an heiress. The play was subsequently made into a silent film, "Sally of the Sawdust" (Field's third silent movie, and first directed by the great D.W.Griffith). The silent version was actually a vehicle for Griffith's pitifully inadequate actress find Carol Dempster (who was also his girlfriend at the time). It is also of interest because the boyfriend of Dempster was played by a young Alfred Lunt (sadly Lynn Fontaine was not in this film).
The 1925 "Sally of the Sawdust" had some good moments when Fields did his larcenous best - including a "heroic" scene at the end where he explains "Sally"'s true parentage at court, and saves her from prison. But Dempster's attempts at "gamin" like cuteness are tiresome to a viewing today. Lunt does well, but is a distinctly supporting actor here.
Fortunately sound came along, so that Mr. Lunt (now with Lynn Fontaine) would make THE GUARDSMAN and plenty of television appearances in the future to demonstrate their fine acting abilities. Ms Dempster, of course, just faded into oblivion. Fields too would benefit by sound, and would leave us that nasal twang that made us guffaw so much. And by doing "Poppy" as a sound film we were able to hear some of the dialog from the stage play that the silent film did not have. Mention has been made of three moments: the sale of the "talking dog", the business with the hot dog vendor (which is where the line at the start of this review comes from), and the business with the patent medicine purchaser ("No more"). A fourth one is the sequence (somewhat too brief) where "Professor" McGargle entertains the guests at a society party with some high sounding concerto on a strange looking stringed instrument. He ends up playing "Pop Goes the Weasel". At the end, when "Poppy" is revealed to really be the lost heiress, McGargle takes leave of his adopted daughter in a quiet, dignified way - not quite as tragic as a similar sequence in THE OLD FASHIONED WAY, perhaps, but equally not as tragic and total as his leaving her in the radio version of "Poppy" that was made within two years of the film. That version was put out on records about 1970, and keeps to the story, but seems sadder than this movie or the 1925 silent version.
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