27 January 2009 | bkoganbing
Sex Appeal Not Saintliness
Marion Davies and her famous sugar daddy William Randolph Hearst selected a curious item for this film. Polly Of The Circus was a Broadway play in the first decade of the last century which must have been quite a sight. Looking at the original stage cast included a family of acrobats for this circus story. This was many years before Rodgers&Hart produced the ultimate circus show extravaganza, Jumbo.
The play was authored by Margaret Mayo and it premiered on New Year's Eve and ran 160 performances in 1908. Nine years later a film version was done starring Mae Marsh. The story is about a circus trapeze artist whose legs are on prominent display in the poster advertising offending the moral sensibilities of the church folks. The setting is Oneonta, New York and the local bishop of the Episcopal church (and I'm guessing by the vestments the domination)is headquartered there and played by C. Aubrey Smith.
Smith has a young nephew starting out in his church and he's played by Clark Gable. Gable's no more believable here as a minister than he was as a Salvation Army Worker opposite Joan Crawford in Laughing Sinners. But Gable was cast for sex appeal not saintliness.
Davies takes a fall off the trapeze and Gable takes her to his and Smith's house to mend. Of course they fall for each other and a nasty house servant played by Raymond Hatton spreads some vicious gossip. Smith has to listen to it and it derails Gable's promising career in the church.
I imagine Polly Of The Circus was probably something W.R. Hearst saw back in 1908 on stage and liked it and kept in mind for Marion Davies when he started seeing her. It's a quaint old fashioned play, the stuff that Hearst liked for Davies. It was old fashioned in 1932 and certainly is in 2009.