Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY (1934). Director: William Beaudine.

"He's all dressed up like a well-kept grave."

Baby Leroy (pictured) stars in this great comedy -- okay, W.C. Fields is the real star, but little Leroy certainly has his most memorable part as Albert Pepperday, the nemesis of the Great McGonigle (Fields). Fields based much of the picture on his own early experiences in show business, and arguably this is his greatest role. Along with his daughter Betty (Judith Allen), her boyfriend and show biz hopeful Wallace (Joe Morrison), McGonigle travels from town to town with a troupe of actors putting on a performance of "The Drunkard." Pursued by the sheriff of the last town, McGonigle gets money from the local widow, Cleo Pepperday (Jan Duggan), promising her a part in the play. This is a very funny movie but it's distinguished by its poignant underpinnings as we come to understand McGonigle's sad, struggling life in the theater. For McGonigle, unlike Fields, there was no happy ending of true success. Fields is superb; Duggan is hilarious as she sings her seemingly endless song number for a distressed McGonigle; and Allen and Morrison are simply charming [the latter does a nice job with his "Little Bit of Heaven" number]. The dinner table sequence with Fields and Baby Leroy is a scream!

Verdict: A sublime classic comedy. ***1/2.

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