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Polly Fisher is a circus trapeze artist who is injured in a fall. She is taken to the nearby home of Reverend John Hartley to recover. The two soon fall in love and marry, however, problems arise for the couple once the reverend's congregation learns about her past with the circus.
Many critics had their doubts about casting Clark Gable in the role of Reverend John Hartley in Polly of the Circus (1932), a remake of a 1917 silent film starring Mae Marsh. John Gammie of London Film Weekly states, "Opinions differ on the wisdom -or folly- of casting the forceful Mr. Gable as a minister of the gospel." In the Gable biography Long Live the King by Lyn Tornabene, studio executive Mina Wallis recalls, "Gable called me up in a terrible mood and said, 'I don't want to do this bloody thing.' I went to the studio immediately, met Clark there. We stayed till two in the morning, with L.B. hammering at him. Finally Hearst said, 'I'll buy him the best car...there's a new car out, ten thousand dollars....I'll give him a present of the car.' Clark was right in the room. He said, 'I'm not interested. I don't like that picture. I don't want to do it. Rewrite it. Do something to it. Maybe then...." Gable eventually agreed, but insisted the script be rewritten.
In spite of the changes, Gable was still unhappy and walked out after the first day's production. Hearst stepped in again and helped negotiate a new contract for Gable. The star soon returned to work with a new two-year contract making $2,000 a week.
Actor Ray Milland, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder (1954), has a small part in the film as a gym instructor who boxes with Gables character. In his autobiography, Wide-eyed in Babylon, Milland explains how an incident during rehearsal "almost nipped my career in the bud." Milland was told not to hit Gable in the face. But when Gable hit him in the ear, Milland's reflex reaction was to strike back. When he did, he knocked a partial bridge out of Gable's mouth. It landed right under Milland's foot. Milland remembers, "The picture was delayed two days and I might as well have had leprosy. From that day on Gable never really trusted me."
Director: Alfred Santell
Screenplay: Carey Wilson and Laurence E. Johnson(based on the play by Margaret Mayo)
Cinematography: George Barnes
Art Direction: Cederic Gibbons
Editing: George Hively
Music: William Axt
Cast: Marion Davies (Polly Fisher), Clark Gable (Reverend John Hartley), C. Aubrey Smith (Reverend James Northcott), Raymond Hatton (Downey), Ray Milland (Young Man).
by Deborah Looney