Cast & Crew
Wanting to see the world, Chris Miller leaves his farm after his mother dies. Upon finding his father Nifty, a carnival barker, Chris talks his way into a job despite Nifty's desire that he get an education and insistence that carnival life is not right for his son. Ashamed to let Chris know about his relationship with Carrie, a dancer in the show, Nifty orders her to bunk with Lou, another dancer, on their train. Insulted, Carrie entices Chris into a drinking party. When Nifty sees Chris drunk, he angrily throws Carrie down and tells her they are through. Carrie gets a gun, which goes off as Lou struggles with her, but no one is injured. As Lou puts the angry, crying Carrie to bed, Carrie offers her one hundred dollars to make Chris fall in love with her so that Nifty will feel the pain of losing someone he is crazy about. Lou, who earlier seduced a farm boy to obtain a diamond ring, brags that it will be the easiest hundred dollars she will ever make and accepts twenty dollars on account. At the next town, as the carnival is being set up, Lou invites Chris to her tent, where she seductively undresses behind a curtain. When Nifty sees Chris leave the tent, he warns him to keep away from her. A week later, as Lou has not yet seduced Chris, Carrie demands her money back, but Lou brags that she can get Chris anytime she wants. She then leads him to a lake where, as he averts his eyes, she removes her clothes and goes swimming. Afterward, she induces him to make love to her, but they are interrupted as the train pulls out, and they barely catch it in time. Later, during a show, when a man climbs onto the stage and taunts Lou to "take it off," Chris fights him and a brawl ensues. When Chris proposes marriage, Lou reveals her scheme, but he says he does not care as long as she loves him now. Although she calls him a "hick," she confesses in tears to Carrie that she's crazy about Chris because he treats her with respect. When Nifty tells his son that Lou is a tramp, Chris calls him a liar. Enraged, Nifty hits Chris, but then hugs him. Chris and Lou marry and plan to go to Chicago, whereupon Nifty tells Chris that he never wants to see him again. Sometime later, Lou dances in a scanty costume at the Chicago World's Fair midway, while Chris works in a law office. Nifty comes to the midway looking for a job, but when he is offered one as a barker for Lou, he turns it down. Lou urges Nifty to stay for Chris's sake and breaks down crying. Chris sees them and orders his father to leave her alone. Chris reveals that Lou got the job dancing so that he could continue his studies, and that she is doing everything Nifty did for him, but doing it better. Nifty sadly leaves, but when he sees that the barker for Lou is not very good, he climbs onto the stage and, with tears in his eyes, begins his spiel and says of Lou, "She's plenty good."
Louis De Francesco
Joseph Moncure March
This film was also known as Hoopla. The play starred Walter Huston, Claudette Colbert and Norman Foster. According to news items, in July 1933, Fox was negotiating to get Charles Bickford for the role of Nifty and Foster was to play Chris. Later news items state that M-G-M was loaning Huston to play Nifty; however, neither Foster nor Huston were in the final film. Film Daily remarked that the "punch probably was lost in changing the basic theme of the story to make Clara Bow, instead of the barker, the central interest." Film Daily also predicted that Bow "will make 'em sit up on several occasions when she comes forth attired in the scantiest raiment she ever wore on the screen." This was Bow's second film since her return to the screen in 1932 after a hiatus, and turned out to be her last. According to unidentified news items in the biographical file on Clara Bow at the AMPAS Library, Bow was knocked out during the brawl sequence. Harry Wood, an extra, admitted that he accidentally hit her after suspicion fell on Harvey Perry, who, the rushes showed, had the previous day been kicked in the face by Bow, which caused his nose to spurt blood. Variety noted that the part of the barker's son "has always been played about five years older than Cromwell does it" and praised the use of the Chicago World's Fair for the final sequences as "showmanly and topical." Hollywood Reporter news items noted that John Irwin was an ex-prizefighter and that Fox claimed that cast member "Doc" McKay was the oldest living barker. According to a handwritten note in the M-G-M story department card files, Fox received the rights to the play from Warner Bros. in exchange for rights to A Modern Hero, which Warners produced in 1934 (see below). No information has been located to confirm this.
According to correspondence in the MPAA/PCA Collection in the AMPAS Library, the seduction scene by the lake was trimmed and re-edited in accordance with the suggestions of Hays Office officials so as to leave the impression that Lou and Chris were not given sufficient opportunity to have sex before they heard that their train was leaving. In 1928, First National Pictures made a film with musical score and sound effects based on the same source, entitled The Barker, directed by George Fitzmaurice and starring Milton Sills, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Dorothy Mackaill (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.0270). In 1945, Twentieth Century-Fox produced a musical based on the same source entitled Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe, directed by George Seaton, and starring Betty Grable and Dick Haymes.