Poppy (1923 musical)

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Music Stephen Jones and Arthur Samuels
Lyrics Dorothy Donnelly and others.
Book Dorothy Donnelly, (Howard Dietz, W. C. Fields)
Productions 1923 Broadway

Poppy is a musical comedy in three acts with music by Stephen Jones and Arthur Samuels (additional music by John Egan), and lyrics and book by Dorothy Donnelly, with contributions also from Howard Dietz, W. C. Fields and Irving Caesar. The musical introduced songs such as "Two Make a Home", "On Our Honeymoon", "What Do You Do Sunday, Mary?" and "Alibi Baby". The story, set in 1874 Connecticut, concerns a circus barker and con man, Prof. Eustace McGargle, who tries to pass off his foster daughter, Poppy, as a long-lost heiress. It turns out that Poppy really is an heiress.

The original New York City production opened at the Apollo Theater on September 3, 1923, and ran for a successful 346 performances, closing on June 28, 1924. It starred Madge Kennedy as Poppy McGargle, with W. C. Fields as Prof. Eustace McGargle, Robert Woolsey as Mortimer Pottle, Alan Edwards as William Van Wyck, Jimmy Barry as Amos Sniffen, and Luella Gear as Mary Delafield. It was directed by Dorothy Donnelly and Julian Alfred, with choreography Julian Alfred. The New York run was followed by a touring production. The piece then had a London production at the Gaiety Theatre in 1924.[1] The success of the piece led to film versions, also starring W. C. Fields.

Musical numbers[edit]

Film versions[edit]

The musical formed the basis for two film versions, both of which starred Fields reviving his blustery carnival-barker character, Eustice P. McGargle. The first was Sally of the Sawdust (1925), a silent movie directed by D. W. Griffith and co-starring Carol Dempster as Sally; and the second was Poppy (1936), directed by A. Edward Sutherland. Fields wore his goofy clip-on mustache for the 1925 production, as he did for most of his silent pictures. Fields was ill during the 1936 production, and a fairly obvious double was used in several scenes requiring physical exertion. He still managed a memorable performance, including these well-known lines spoken to his daughter Poppy (Rochelle Hudson):

  • "What a gorgeous day ... what effulgent sunshine ... effulgent sunshine, yes ... 'twas a day of this sort, the McGillicuddy brothers murdered their mother with an axe!"
  • "And if we should ever separate, my little plum, I want to give you just one bit of fatherly advice: 'Never give a sucker an even break!'"


  1. ^ Parker, John. Who's Who in the Theatre: A Biographical Record of the Contemporary Stage, Pitman, London (1912-1981), pp. 519–20

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