Sally of the Sawdust

(DW Griffith, 1925). It’s a small irony of film history that humorless, moralizing D.W. Griffith would supervise W.C. Fields’s screen debut. Playing a boozy carnival con man, Fields is surprisingly close to his essential persona; he gets to fleece numerous suckers and even kick a dog, but his misanthropy is diluted by his affection an orphaned circus girl (Griffith's last protégée, Carol Dempster). Sally is minor Griffith but it demonstrates that, whatever the genre, he remained the master manipulator of human emotion.
Sat., Nov. 29, 2 p.m., 2008

 
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