Rain or Shine
This 1930 circus film is worth seeing almost entirely for the performance of Joe Cook, a long-forgotten vaudeville star who began as a juggler and soon added dance, piano, magic, unicycling, and wire-walking to his act. (Though active on Broadway, he seems to have appeared in only one other film, Arizona Mahoney in 1937.) Frank Capra’s direction here is characteristically bland, and the story, extracted from a stage musical, is unexceptional. But Cook is amazing as the circus manager, a bundle of pure energy who can talk anyone out of anything. Confronted with an unpaid bill for $240, he convinces the store owner to make a $300 cash investment in the circus, settles the bill out of that, and keeps the change. Any complaint brings a burst of irrelevancies that leaves the other person’s head spinning–the best con artists are masters of rhythm, and Cook is so good that people thank him for duping them. Artists like Cook may have been typical of vaudeville, which is poorly documented, but I’ve never seen a performance quite like his in cinema. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, August 21, 7:45, 312-443-3737.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.