Monday, March 26, 2012
Side Show (1931)
Side Show feels familiar, and it should -- it borrows a lot of plot elements from The Barker (which would have its own reincarnation two years later as Hoop-La). Winnie Lightner plays the lead in a story of two sisters loving the same man, with circus life the backdrop. While the film comes off as sordid and tiresome in turns, and Lightner is wasted in a dramatic role, she is an absolute gem when she gets to perform. Boy, can that woman sing! She's cut from Sophie Tucker cloth, and the result is loud and brash and amazing. She's also a terrific comedienne, and it's a shame that there isn't better material for her to work with here.
Charles Butterworth does his schtick throughout the entire movie, and I'm curious how 30s audiences took him because he annoyed the living crap out of me. His non sequiturs were irritating and (at least to me) not funny at all.
Guy Kibbee, as the sideshow owner, spends the entire film inebriated (he could play a great drunk); Evalyn Knapp is earnest and cute as Lightner's little sister; and Donald Cook is appropriately sleazy as the ladies' love interest.
I give this one: