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Exit Smiling (1926)

Passed | | Comedy, Romance | 14 November 1926 (USA)
A maid who works for a traveling theatrical troupe wants desperately to be an actress, and manages to get some small roles in the company's productions, but is determined to do anything she... See full summary »


Sam Taylor


Marc Connelly (story), Sam Taylor (scenario) | 2 more credits »




Complete credited cast:
Beatrice Lillie ... Violet
Jack Pickford ... Jimmy Marsh
Doris Lloyd ... Olga
DeWitt Jennings ... Orlando Wainwright
Harry Myers ... Jesse Watson
Tenen Holtz ... Tod Powell
Louise Lorraine ... Phyllis Tichnor
Franklin Pangborn ... Cecil Lovelace


A maid who works for a traveling theatrical troupe wants desperately to be an actress, and manages to get some small roles in the company's productions, but is determined to do anything she can to show that she deserves a shot at the big time. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


What of the thousands of stage-struck girls, neither good-looking nor able to act, who each year seek a career in the theatre? Here is the true story of such a girl-a searching, human, always appealing picture You must see it- you'll be thrilled and moved by this leaf torn from the Book of Life! (Print Ad- Granby Leader-Mail, ((Granby, PQ)) 4 February 1927) See more »


Comedy | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


While the acting troupe is eating dinner together in the train car, the eldest actor says he is reminded of a time when he "played with Edwin Booth." The other actors at the table make faces of distaste knowing they will have to endure another round of old stories about his glory days with a legendary actor who has been dead for over 30 years. Nevertheless, Edwin Booth is considered among the greatest American theater actors and was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. However, his legacy is forever tied to the fact that his brother, John, assassinated Abraham Lincoln. See more »


After the beans and ham dinner, Violet joins Jimmy Marsh outside as he's reading a magazine. In the background, the moving scenery makes it look as if the train is traveling backwards. See more »


Title Card: "Flaming Women" flamed, flickered and smouldered through two acts... and was gradually dying out.
See more »

Alternate Versions

In 2004, Turner Entertainment Co. copyrighted a version with a new score by Linda Martinez, winner of the 4th Annual Young Composers Competition sponsored by Turner Classic Movies (TCM). It was premiered by TCM on 15 May 2005 and ran 77 minutes. See more »

User Reviews

Bea Lillie & Franklin Pangborn: Comedy Heaven
18 May 2005 | by escheticSee all my reviews

OF COURSE most viewers will track this one down for the first screen appearance of stage comedienne nonpareil, Bea Lillie, and Lady Peel gives an absolutely beautiful performance (pretty enough to win an English Lord, as the actress did in real life, yet able to walk a perfect comedic tight rope between insouciant self-confidence and nagging insecurity), but there is even more to recommend this charming backstage comedy than the star performance.

Set (and beautifully observed) deep into the tour of one of those third tier "acting" companies (heavy on the melodramatic programming and light on competent management) that lived on "the road" and which helped bring about first the rise of powerful central booking agencies and ultimately the formation of Actors' Equity, the film seems to say these are a memory of the past even in 1926 . . . but what a lovingly recalled memory!

Bottom of the pecking order within the company is Voilet (Ms. Lillie), who plays maids and cares for the costumes and longs to play "vampire" leads (we're talking 20's vamps, not Anne Rice territory). She's even below the juvenile/character man (last billed featured player Franklin Pangborn, who's later lavender camp personality is still not locked in stone here, though his comic and dramatic talents are), but when she manages to get a handsome young drifter (little she knows!) hired on as the company juvenile, she shows her real acting talents saving him from himself without ever letting him suspect - or suspect that she longs to be more than a friend.

Mary Pickford's younger brother, second billed Jack Pickford, plays the young thespian, Jimmy, very nicely in a rare appearance. Though he lacked a certain "star" quality, his acting was fine and it's a pity his career seemed to wither in the face of his personal demons and more famous sibling. He didn't survive his 30's.

The print being shown these days on Turner Classic Movies has a nicely varied but occasionally too lush score by contest winner Linda Martinez, but it serves the quiet moments (and there are many) beautifully. Director Sam Taylor undercuts playwright Marc Connelly's story at a number of points (given scant hours to prepare Jimmy for his big tryout, does Violet grab a script to get him up on the lines he's never heard? No, they adjourn to a neighboring farm yard to rehearse "cute"), but otherwise the details of on- and back-stage life of the touring company are captured with something close to perfection, and the detail appreciating cinematography and acting from all concerned is a joy from start to finish.

Anyone who loves Lillie's later work (all the way to her Mrs. Meers in 1967's THOROUGHILY MODERN MILLIE - a mere 41 years later but there are some surprising moments of foreshadowing for that role here!) shouldn't miss this one. It captures their girl at the peak of her powers when she could do more with a raised eyebrow than pages of dialogue.

Anyone who loved the early scenes in any of the SHOWBOAT films that gave them their name or who howled at Michael Frayn's hilarious stage farce and fun film, NOISES OFF, will also feel right at home with this deft predecessor.

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None | English

Release Date:

14 November 1926 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Exit Smiling See more »


Box Office


$260,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(2005 alternate)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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