In a fascinating departure from the austere moral drama in which he specialized, D.W. Griffith demonstrates his talent for warm-hearted comedy with "Sally of the Sawdust." Fresh from the Ziegfeld Follies, W.C. Fields made ... more »his second screen appearance as Professor Eustace McGargle in a rare silent screen role showcasing the comic juggling and dry wit that would make him a legend.« less
"A sentimental comedy with an inevitable happy ending but still good fun. Carol Dempster does a convincing job as a free spirited circus girl, Sally, brought up by McGargle (Fields, of course)after the death of her parents. The silent Fields shows his physical comedy skills, which are often forgotten due the later strength of his spoken comedy. The quality of the picture is excellent - again showing for me that B & W movies gain most from DVD if the manufacturers make an effort. A good movie for anyone to watch, it is a must for the Fields fans to see the earlier stages of the character that was to become so familiar in the later films."
Original Fields at his best in the role he was born to play!
David Watts (email@example.com | Indiana, USA | 10/30/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Quality of the DVD; The picture quality was great, and was taken from an obviously well restored print. Sound was excellent as well, (although this is a silent movie). I have seen very good silent movies with terrible sound tracks of ill fitting music, but with this movie they used the original sheet music that was made for it, with delightful results. This is a silent movie, but if you are a Fields fan, you will not want to miss this one. The movie captures the essence of all of Fields' future movies, utilizing the formula of where he is the down trodden father with the loving and devoted daughter and they see it through with each other's help and find the golden lining of the grey clouds. You even get a peek at some of Fields' juggling. Best viewing wishes, Dave"
Introducing Professor Eustace McGargle
David Watts (firstname.lastname@example.org | 05/05/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"W.C. Fields made his first real mark on the movie world with this film. In fact, this film was also the first to present Bill Fields in his "traditional" costume: gray top hat, cutaway coat, checked pants, and spats. One longs to hear that nasal drawl spouting flowery epigrams and thinly veiled insults, but Fields does an excellent job nonetheless. His pantomime background (from his years as a silent juggling act in vaudeville) provides him with a wealth of funny bits of business."Sally" is based on "Poppy," a Broadway musical that was a hit largely because of Fields. The same is true here: Carol Dempster gets top billing, but it's Bill's show all the way. He does part of his juggling act, displays a couple of Rube Goldbergish props built for other stage shows, and presents us with the initial version of his marvelous carnival/medicine show grifter, who would resurface later under such patently phony monickers as Larson E. Whipsnade and J. Cuthbert Twillie."
Thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable
Barbara (Burkowsky) Underwood | Manly, NSW Australia | 04/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Next to "Battle of the Sexes" this charming silent film surely rates as a superb example of legendary director D.W. Griffith's versatility and skill. While probably best remembered for his serious historic and moral epics of earlier years, Griffith kept up with the times and directed a variety of other films in the mid to late 1920s, of which "Sally of the Sawdust" stands out as one of the best. With outstanding stars such as W.C. Fields perfectly cast in the colourful character of Professor McGargle, and Carol Dempster as Sally, who replaced Griffith's earlier `stock' actresses such as Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish and Mae Marsh, this film shines and is entertaining and enjoyable every single minute. Carol Dempster, who only appeared in over a dozen films and mostly under Griffith's direction, plays the part of Sally wonderfully and brings the character and whole story to life as she leaps spritely from scene to scene as the circus orphan who is devoted to her guardian and her `Pop', Professor McGargle. But unknown to her, she has living grandparents who are also unaware of her existence, which makes for considerable emotional suspense and also sentimentality as the plot unwinds. This busy story was in fact a popular stage play called "Poppy" in which W.C. Fields played the same role of Professor McGargle, and whose screen appearance in this film led to further future successful screen roles. Griffith often demonstrated his skill in building suspense and action in his films, and "Sally of the Sawdust" is no exception as Sally waits for her Pop to evade a gang of thieves and finally arrive in court to tell the stern judge - who is in fact Sally's grandfather - who her mother was so that she wouldn't be sent to a home for wayward girls. There are delightful moments of comedy as well as action and drama, all without the intensity and heaviness often characteristic of Griffith's earlier dramatic sagas. Together with very good and clear picture quality and a perfectly suited piano score based on original cue sheets, this Kino Video production is high quality all-round, and shows Griffith and his stars at their best. "
Enjoyable light comedy
Anyechka | Rensselaer, NY United States | 02/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I thought it would be a bit hard to really get into this film, since I'm not too familiar with the silent work of W.C. Fields. Since he really didn't come into his own until the sound era, it's hard to see him deprived of that essential element in his comedy, his voice. However, this film does seem to be regarded as one of his better silents, and he still manages to be quite entertaining and funny even without being able to use his voice or rely upon other noises. It's also an interesting change of pace to see him in a fatherly role, given his legendary dislike of children (at least on-camera), even if Sally is a young woman and not exactly a true child for the majority of the film.
Judge and Mrs. Foster have a beloved only child, but when she announces her intentions to marry a circus man, her father throws her out of the house and tells her to never come back. Several years later, we see her in the circus on her deathbed, her husband having already died. She entrusts the care of her daughter Sally to Prof. Eustace McGargle, and he takes this trust very seriously. Sally is raised knowing him as both her father and mother, and grows up a free spirit as the circus moves from town to town. The two are very devoted to one another, even when they fall on hard luck and get in trouble with the law. But when the two happen to pass through the town where the Fosters still live, they have more to worry about than the cops being after them for fixing a card game. Judge Foster hates circus folk and entertainers, and in particular has disliked Sally from the very first time he saw her, so McGargle resolves to not tell either of them the true secret of her birth. Sally has however made an impression on Mrs. Foster and a wealthy young man, Peyton Lennox, and they don't appreciate the efforts of Judge Foster and Mr. Lennox to run her out of town and put her on trial for her role in a crooked card game. (It does seem odd that the courtroom would be so filled for such a minor trial, and that Sally should be at risk for being sent to a home for "wayward girls" over that, but a little suspension of disbelief is necessary sometimes to really get into a film.) During Sally's trial, McGargle (who still holds the ultimate trump card, the secret of her birth) is on the run from some crooks, but Sally insists he's going to come through for her as usual.
Overall, it's a fun cute film, even if some of the scenes are a bit repetitive, implausible, and overly melodramatic. It's a bit long for a comedy, so some of the less-essential scenes could have been cut out without the whole product suffering. And I already don't believe in love at first sight, so I found the "romance" between Sally and Peyton rather unbelievable, even moreso than most "love at first sight" stories. I didn't see any real mutual attraction between them, more like some playboy lusting after this new girl and pretty much forcing his affections and attentions on her until she gives in. Much more believable is the father-daughter relationship between Sally and McGargle. Carol Dempster was rather lacking in her acting skills, but she does an adequate job with the material. It's not like she has a demanding role here that would have required more finesse and skill."