There’s one thing that W.C. Fields will never be, and that’s unfunny. He could get laughs with Hamlet’s soliloquy, which is just about what he does in Poppy [from a play by Dorothy Donnelly]. Amidst the 19th-century melodramatics and the considerable sob stuff that goes with it, Fields manages to shake off the ill effects and get his laughs.
The role of Prof Eustace McGargle, carnival guy, three-shell operator, medicine man and beloved rogue, is a setup for Fields. The juvenile romance, calling for mostly starry-eyed mutual admiration close-ups by Richard Cromwell and Rochelle Hudson, is just a series of interruptions between the Fields comedy business. The section of the plot which provides the complications, via villainy, is more helpful, for it ushers in Catherine Doucet as a first rate contrasting foil for Fields in some of his best moments.