Cast & Crew
C. Aubrey Smith
When the circus goes to a staid Vermont town, aerialist Mme. Polly is insulted by posters showing lacy pants covering her bare legs. Mistakenly thinking that the town's minister, Rev. John Hartley, is responsible, she storms into his vestibule and confronts him. That evening, Polly is distracted by a heckler teasing her about her "pants" and falls to the ground. Because he lives close to the fairgrounds, John, who is in the audience, suggests that they take her there, where she recuperates for several weeks. Downey, John's manservant, antagonizes Polly, whom he regards as a bad woman, but John's kindness captivates her. One night, when Polly waits up for John, who has worked very late, they realize that they have fallen in love. When a drunken Downey sees them kiss, however, he becomes violent towards Polly. He is dismissed, but the next day, while John is giving a sermon, Downey accuses him of immoral behavior. Polly is too embarrased to remain in church and later offers to give John up, but he insists that they marry, over the objections of his uncle, Bishop James Northcott. John thinks that another congregation would be happy to take him, but after he and Polly marry, he finds that no congregation will take a minister involved in a scandal. Several months later, John has been reduced to selling bibles, while Polly tries to be a housewife. After an argument during which John refuses to take any of Polly's money or to allow her back in the circus, he leaves their apartment. Polly then follows John to a church and, realizing that his happiness lay with God, she pretends that she no longer loves him. She also visits his uncle and asks for his help in getting John's congregation back. When John talks to the bishop, they realize that Polly is planning to kill herself so that John will not have to face the scandal of a divorce. They then rush to the circus and arrive just before Polly is about to deliberately miss a dangerous stunt. Polly and John embrace after she gets the "o.k." from his uncle.
C. Aubrey Smith
Polly of the Circus
Many critics had their doubts about casting Clark Gable in the role of Reverend John Hartley in Polly of the Circus (1932), a remake of a 1917 silent film starring Mae Marsh. John Gammie of London Film Weekly states, "Opinions differ on the wisdom -or folly- of casting the forceful Mr. Gable as a minister of the gospel." In the Gable biography Long Live the King by Lyn Tornabene, studio executive Mina Wallis recalls, "Gable called me up in a terrible mood and said, 'I don't want to do this bloody thing.' I went to the studio immediately, met Clark there. We stayed till two in the morning, with L.B. hammering at him. Finally Hearst said, 'I'll buy him the best car...there's a new car out, ten thousand dollars....I'll give him a present of the car.' Clark was right in the room. He said, 'I'm not interested. I don't like that picture. I don't want to do it. Rewrite it. Do something to it. Maybe then...." Gable eventually agreed, but insisted the script be rewritten.
In spite of the changes, Gable was still unhappy and walked out after the first day's production. Hearst stepped in again and helped negotiate a new contract for Gable. The star soon returned to work with a new two-year contract making $2,000 a week.
Actor Ray Milland, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954), has a small part in the film as a gym instructor who boxes with GableÕs character. In his autobiography, Wide-eyed in Babylon, Milland explains how an incident during rehearsal "almost nipped my career in the bud." Milland was told not to hit Gable in the face. But when Gable hit him in the ear, Milland's reflex reaction was to strike back. When he did, he knocked a partial bridge out of Gable's mouth. It landed right under Milland's foot. Milland remembers, "The picture was delayed two days and I might as well have had leprosy. From that day on Gable never really trusted me."
Director: Alfred Santell
Screenplay: Carey Wilson and Laurence E. Johnson(based on the play by Margaret Mayo)
Cinematography: George Barnes
Art Direction: Cederic Gibbons
Editing: George Hively
Music: William Axt
Cast: Marion Davies (Polly Fisher), Clark Gable (Reverend John Hartley), C. Aubrey Smith (Reverend James Northcott), Raymond Hatton (Downey), Ray Milland (Young Man).
by Deborah Looney
Polly of the Circus
The original play opened in New York on 23 December 1907.
The original play opened in New York on 23 December 1907
According to a pre-release news item in Film Daily, Kathryn Crawford was in the cast, however, her participation in the completed film has not been determined. Reviewers were mixed in their appraisal of Clark Gable and Marion Davies' performances: some wrote that they were both miscast, while others praised them. The film was not financially successful, but Gable's next film, Red Dust, (see below) in which he played a more typical "rough" character, was one of his most successful. Polly of the Circus was also filmed in 1917 by the Goldwyn Pictures Corp. and starred Mae Marsh in the title role (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.3483). Another adaptation of the play was broadcast on the Lux Radio Theatre on November 30, 1936, directed by Frank Borzage, and starring Loretta Young, James Gleason and Lionel Barrymore.