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  • Technically, this is a comedy (happy ending, funny dialogue), but it's a pretty soggy one. Lee Tracy, the screen's peerless impersonator of fast-talking, wisecracking flim-flam men, is Chick, a carny showman whose wife dies in childbirth and whose anxieties about bringing up baby expose us to lots of lectures about bottles and thermometers. Jimmy Durante, whose talent is for demolishing order and breaking up the joint, assists Tracy in baby care, helping him put up a front of respectability for the baby-snatchers from the Children's Society. These harpies pursue Tracy with such assiduity over the years you would think his name was Chick Valjean.

    Chick learns that a wife would make him genuinely respectable, but his worries prevent him seeing that sweet Sally Eilers, who is besotted with both him and his baby, is the one for him. The performers are all appealing, and the baby isn't too hard to take, but the script is pretty lame, and the whole enterprise feels damped down by the enforced pathos and the submission of the two comics' raucous personalities to these nice-guy parts.
  • Carnival puppeteer Lee Tracy's wife dies giving birth to his son. His father-in-law, Oscar Apfel, who threw his daughter out, wants the baby, but Tracy says no. When warrants are shown, Tracy grabs the baby. With the help of light-fingered piano-player Jimmy Durante and Tracy's assistant, Sally Eilers, they take it on the lam, hiding under false names in traveling shows. Eilers loves Tracy, but he never realizes it.

    It's a pretty good carnival movie, directed by Walter Lang from a script by Robert Riskin. It shows the close-knit community of the carnival, with plenty of the characters you might see at a sideshow, including midgets, a half-man-half-woman, and giant John Aasen. It doesn't romanticize the culture; its members are well-meaning if not overly bright, and it's good to see Tracy in this period doing something than his patented, fasted-talking reporter.

    The copy I saw was not very good. The image looked to be third or fourth generation, and the soundtrack was muffled, but what I saw indicated that it was a pretty good movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A potentially lachrymose subject receives racy 1930s treatment courtesy of screenwriter Robert Riskin, tailored to fast-talking stars Lee Tracy and Jimmy Durante. The film begins with a funny and unexpected opening sequence involving Tracy's marionette act. Equally unexpected is the sudden tragic turn leaving Tracy holding the baby after his wife dies in childbirth. More predictably, Tracy is so slow on the uptake that right under his nose his besotted professional partner Sally Eilers would be an ideal mother for his boy that by the end of the film you're practically willing her to crown him with a frying pan; and you really wonder if he actually deserves her.

    The film goes into some detail about the state of maternity care during the 1930s, and continues to confound expectations with a hair raising action finale shot in vividly 'cinema-verite' style by cameraman Allen G. Siegler. A large supporting cast includes Lucille Ball as a nurse who ends up accidentally kissing Jimmy Durante in a darkened room. Durante himself naturally has the showiest part and gets most of the laughs as Tracy's eternal friend in need.
  • Chick Thompson (Lee Tracy) and his pal, Fingers (Jimmy Durante) worked for the circus but ran away with Chick's baby, Poochy(???). This is because Mrs. Thompson died in childbirth and her father is trying to take the child away from Chick. Eventually, Chick returns to the circus and has rebranded himself 'Doc Crawford'. But soon child welfare workers show up looking for the child....and Chick/Doc realizes that if he's married that perhaps these social workers will give up chasing him and the kid. But Chick is so completely clueless and somehow doesn't realize that Daisy (Sally Eilers) would be a perfect mother and that she in love with him. Eventually, she gets fed up with Chick's neglect and she leaves the circus. What's next for her, Chick and Poochy(?????)?

    While "Carnival" is a decent film, it has one huge problem....no man is that stupid and clueless. How could Chick not realize Daisy is great marriage material? How could he not realize she's in love with him? And, how could she not recognize her motherly side when she takes care of the child so much of the time?? Having Chick he this dumb was a bit ridiculous. And, when smart people act THIS dumb, you realize the writing could have been a lot better.

    In spite of all this, the film is enjoyable. It is surprising that Durante's comic talents weren't used more as Chick's sidekick...but it still is a nice little film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A familiar story gets a sex change in this old fashioned yarn of fatherly love as opposed to motherly love. It's filled with every imaginable type of character you would see in your local traveling carnival of years past. Fans of the cult musical "Side Show" will recognize almost all of the specialty acts from little people to the bearded lady to even half man, half woman. Bring raised among these and "normal" traveling entertainers is the son of a puppeteer whose mother died in childbirth. Lee Tracy once again plays the single father, having already done so in "The Lemon Drop Kid" the previous year. When his disapproving father-in-law (Oscar Apfel) threatens a custody battle, Tracy takes the kid on the run. Tracy's partner (Sally Eilers) is obviously in love with him and longs to marry him, but Tracy has other ideas.

    Laughs are provided by Jimmy Durante as a kleptomaniac member of the carnival crew who provides a shoulder for Tracy to lean on behind the laughter. This is a mixture of dramatic pathos and light comedy, and a few casting surprises along the way including a young blonde who had a lengthy career as queen of the B's before becoming the queen of T.V. in the early 1950's. Look for a blonde nurse anxious to steal kisses from her doctor boyfriend who kisses Durante instead. Ultimately, it is Durante's attempt at theft which leads to near tragedy and provides a gripping finale. Fine performances help this ruse above predictable plot twists.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Viewed this film online and it was a well made and performed though possibly on a smaller budget than usual and the ending seemed very rushed and put together, since the build up to the climax was more comprehensive and cohesive. Though this was made a year after the 'code' there are still some material that is alluded to premarital sex and getting away with a crime. Here is the storyline: Puppeteer Chick Thompson travels the carnival circuit with his close friends, Daisy and "Fingers" MCoy, a pianist who occasionally dabbles as a pickpocket to benefit his friends. Chick's wife dies during the birth of their son "Poochy," and Daisy, who is attracted to Chick, volunteers to help him raise the child. When the carnival pulls up stakes three weeks later, Mr. Lawson, Chick's father-in-law, who never approved of his daughter's marriage, legally restrains Chick from taking Poochy with him during his travels with the carnival on the grounds that it is not a suitable environment for a child. After abducting the boy from the authorities, Chick and Fingers decide to leave the carnival and hide out with him. Two years later, the carnival announces the appearance of "Doc Crawford's Australian Marionettes," which is actually Chick's new act. Daisy, who is happy to be reunited with Chick, helps shield his identity from a woman from the children's care society, who then mistakes Poochy for the happy child of Daisy and "Doc." Daisy convinces Chick that the only way to stop the authorities' harassment of him would be to find the right kind of mother for Poochy. At the state fair, Chick and Fingers enlist the carnival folk to check out the local midway populace, as Chick still does not realize that Daisy would gladly accept his marriage proposal. Chick falls for Miss Holbrook, a nurse at the baby incubator exhibit, but then discovers that she is already married. Discouraged by Chick's failure to ask her to marry him, Daisy leaves him and the act. At the fair, Chick enters Poochy in a "perfect baby" contest, in hopes that winning the $500 first prize would convince the welfare authorities that he is a good father of a healthy child. Unknown to Chick, Fingers scams the contest, and Poochy's first place finish is short-lived when the judges discover the ruse. About to be jailed, Chick becomes frantic when Poochy disappears. He and Fingers escape from the detectives, and alert the carnies that they are in trouble with screams of "Hey Rube." Chick finds Poochy and hides him in a box in his tent, leaving the child alone as he and Fingers flee from the authorities. In the confusion of the stampeding crowds, the tent is set ablaze. Chick thinks his son has died in the flames, but returns home to find that Poochy was saved by Daisy. When Chick and Fingers are later sentenced to six months in jail, Chick realizes that his child will be lost. He quickly pays two dollars to marry Daisy on the spot, hands her Poochy, then kisses her goodbye to serve his time. Fingers thanks his jailer as he is locked up and confides to cellmate Chick that the key he filched may shorten their stay.