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  • In what was probably a quickie timed to beat Fox's 'Four Devils' into the theatres, writer/director George Abbott fashions his best effort. With F. W. Murneau's highly anticipated follow-up to 'Sunrise' in production simultaneously, much of the camera movement in this trapeze artist talker is owed to the prestige oozing from down the street. The film opens with a horrible accident, splendidly photographed. Soon after, the heroine (and the audience) discover the truth, but all involved seem powerless to bring the truth to light. Then, Charles 'Buddy' Rogers arrives, and in a plot twist untypical for this era, he remains resolute in his beliefs. His character's strengths steal the film. I won't spoil the fun, but Paul Lukas does a dead-on Bela Lugosi impression throughout the film. And 'Buddy' didn't even need his 'Wings'.
  • Odd little circus film about trapeze artists and obsessive love.

    Jean Arthur stars as Greta, a trapeze star with a traveling circus. The act's "catcher" is the obsessive and mean Nick (Paul Lukas). After a terrible accident, Arthur decides to hide out at a train stop and miss the train. She ends up in a small town where she's taken in at a boarding house. She meets a young man (Buddy Rogers) who happens to running away to the circus. Despite this rather clunky plot twist, Arthur and Rogers are quite good together.

    Back at the circus, Nick goes nuts when he realizes that Arthur and Rogers are in love. Nick plans for another accident but Rogers fools him in a neat twist.

    Co-stars include Helen Ware as the "all-seeing" fortune teller, Edna West as the boarding house lady, Irving Bacon as Slim, Oscar Apfel as the circus manager, and Nestor Aber as the younger brother.

    The trapeze shots are quite good. Worth seeing for Jean Arthur and Buddy Rogers.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was not the first talking picture of any of the three leads - Jean Arthur, Buddy Rogers, or Paul Lukas, so they had some experience with the medium. Still apparently direction and diction coaches did not get in the way either and as a result the three give very natural performances. For that matter, the entire cast is good. I'm spoiling this one almost completely, so if you don't want the details, do not read on.

    This film is centered on a young circus acrobat, Greta (Jean Arthur), who cannot seem to get the other lead acrobat, Nick (Paul Lukas), out of her hair. He seems to think she belongs to him, and when he finds out she took a simple walk with the other acrobat, the guy has "a little accident" and falls to his death during their next performance. Nick claims the other acrobat was clumsy and just fell, and that he tried to grab hold of his hands in the act, but he just could not hold on. Everyone buys this claim, including law enforcement apparently, and Nick is still employed with the troupe. Then, when Nick tries to force Greta into another embrace on the train, Greta sees the scratch marks on Nick's wrist - scratch marks that point to the dead acrobat desperately trying to grasp Nick, but Nick letting go anyways.

    So now Greta knows Nick is a murderer. Does she tell law enforcement or the head of the circus while the evidence is still fresh on Nick's wrists? No! She just gets off the train at the next stop, not even knowing where she is and with no plan and intentionally misses her train when it leaves, with all of her luggage still on it! Now Greta is intent on not going back to the circus until she finds out that a guy she fell in love with in the small town (Buddy Rogers as Ned) has left that town to be an acrobat in her old show. Forget that Greta's old troupe was a first class troupe and Ned's only experience is working on crude equipment in his barn (why would this top of the line troupe hire a newby?), Greta going back to the circus after not outing a murderer inspired by his jealousy is going to possibly precipitate another "accident", since she and Ned actually are in love, murderers (Nick) don't tend to be redeemable characters, and the fact that Ned and Nick are going to be acrobats gives Nick a perfect opportunity again.

    The ending is preposterous. After Nick has been relentless in his pursuit of Greta, after another murder attempt in mid air is thwarted by Ned's resourcefulness, the solution to the problem is as simple as Ned beating up Nick and telling him to get his things and not come back! The end! It's like an old western where the good guy tells the bad guy "this town (circus) ain't big enough for the two of us pardner!" and the bad guy just runs. In other words, they make Nick out just to be another cowardly bully who only needs to be stood up to. Forget that he has already gotten away with murder.

    The strongest performer here is Buddy Rogers who shows great energy and likability. I guess if Jean Arthur didn't have such a great future as a screwball comedienne I'd think more of her performance, but she plays such a mouse here. Lukas is great as the sociopath romantic. Helen Ware adds some needed levity as the fake mystic of the circus. She's great and that's odd since she usually did dramatic roles. Oscar Apfel, a man who changed careers from silent director to sound era character actor, is good in a bad part - the most passive circus manager of all times, ignoring obvious inter-employee harassment and possible homicides all around him. Charleton Heston of "The Greatest Show on Earth" he is not. Then there is Edna West as Ned's mother. I guess the film couldn't have two aggressive characters trying to thwart young love and young plans, but her character comes off as a bit too passive. Her son wants a career flying about in the air as an acrobat without a net - she says "fine". Her son falls in love with a stranger about whom she knows nothing in just two days and she says "fine". Just too good to be true. If this was today and not 1929 I'd say "Put down the Paxil Mrs. Lee".

    I'd say if you are a film history buff, then this is a 7/10 just for the goofiness of it all. If you are not a film history buff, it is probably just going to be mediocre for you, a definite 5/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Quite amazing that by the time of this movie's release in December 1929, all three of the stars were talkie veterans - such was the manic effort to show that Paramount could make movies that talked!!

    Paul Lucas plays Nick Pogli, a high wire "catcher" with a giant chip on his shoulder to do with his partner Greta - you can see what's coming?? Greta is keen on another flyer, then suddenly there is a fatal accident!! Nick convinces everyone it was an accident but when Greta sees scratches on his wrist she flees the circus, finds a rooming house and has no intention of going back. She meets Ned Lee who is all excited about his new "secret" job - he doesn't let on that he has just joined the circus as a replacement flyer for Greta's former beau.

    It's nothing out of the box plotwise but the aerial shots are different and give you a feeling that you are up there with them. Jean Arthur sounds quite at home in front of the mike, lots better than her previous efforts. Rogers was still being groomed as "America's Boyfriend" but within the year he was forced to adopt a tougher screen image where he smoked and also played callow, selfish youths. He was better here as the over eager innocent (a particular scene where he first finds out he has a job in the circus - he jumps about and is so excited). Paul Lukas with his thick Hungarian accent is suitably moody - but the ending defies belief (or gravity)!! When Nick realises there is something serious between the two - you know that Ned is not going to last very long up on the wires if he has to rely on his "catcher"!! He gets around the problem in a novel way but Nick is only satisfied with a brawl in which he is bested by young Ned who tells him "this circus ain't big enough for the both of us"!!