1 October 2006 | movingpicturegal
The Old Shell Game
Well done melodrama that tells the story of Sally, tomboy dancer in the circus, raised by sideshow performer McGargle (played by W.C. Fields), he of the top hat, little mustache, checkered pants, and proficiency as juggler, pickpocket, and runner of carnival con games like Three Card Monte and the Old Shell Game. McGargle has raised Sally, who worships him as her "real father" since Sally's mother (kicked out of her home by her father, a judge, when she married a "circus man") died and left Sally orphaned. Sally is feisty and loyal to McGargle no matter what he gets up to - but McGargle seems to feel a bit of guilt over keeping her in the circus instead of with her own family all these years. When they end up performing in a carnival in the town where her wealthy grandparents live, McGargle uses the opportunity to "investigate" Sally's real family, with the idea that he may restore her to them. But grandfather the judge takes an immediate disliking to Sally 'cause he doesn't like a "show girl" - what a stern, narrow-minded man he is, a real piece of work that guy! And meanwhile Sally is busy being pursued by a handsome and rich young man, son of the man who helped grandpa get his riches.
This is a very good film with a few laughs here and there and a sort of odd editing style (I don't know how to describe this other than it shows long shots, then sort of jumps back a few seconds or changes angle suddenly as a close up is shown). Carol Dempster, who plays Sally, is delightful here - quite cute and comical in her performance. W.C. Fields, even without his famous voice, is very funny - just the way he moves and his amusing, comical reactions to things (like a small dog seen in one funny scene), we even see him juggling briefly in this. I love the few peeks at the old-fashioned circus and carnival that is shown here. The print of this featured on the DVD is very nice looking, tinted a light sepia tone, and the piano score for this is really excellent, performed by Philip Carli based on the original cue sheets.