20 March 2012 | Michael_Elliott
Great Cast but Weak Story
Side Show (1931)
** (out of 4)
Decent melodrama from Warner has Winnie Lightner playing Pat, a jack-of-all-trades working in a traveling circus whose life falls apart when the man she (Donald Cook) loves runs off with her younger sister (Evalyn Knapp). While all of that is going on Winnie is also having to worry about the circus itself falling apart as its owner (Guy Kibbee) can't afford to pay the workers. SIDE SHOW is a pretty bizarre little movie that's story is way too weak and predictable to work but thankfully the cast are so good that they make the film worth sitting through and especially at such a short running time (64-minutes). I think the best thing that can be said about the film is that the performances are exceptionally good with each cast member coming off very believable in their part. Lightner plays a very tough, head strong woman and she makes you believe that this is the way she is. I thought he handled some of the lighter comedy just fine but she also did a good job once the drama starts. Cook delivers a fine performance as the dirty two-timer and Knapp beings a certain naive quality to the role and you can see why she'd fall for her sister's man. Charles Butterworth gets a lot of screen time but most of it has him looking straight at the camera and delivering his type of humor. It seems more people are torn on the comic ability of Butterworth but I've always found him rather entertaining and I think he gets to shout off a few good jokes here. Kibbee plays the lovable drunk like only he could. One other good thing is that you really do get a good, intimate feel of what a traveling circus must have felt like. With all of that said, there's no question that the film is way too predictable for its own good and the entire love triangle just isn't believable. What's even worse is the horrid ending, which is just so bad that you can't help but think the studio must have gotten a hold of it. SIDE SHOW is certainly minor entertainment but fans of the cast will want to check it out.