Side Show (film)

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Side Show
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Written by Screenplay:
Arthur Caesar
Ray Enright
William K. Wells
Starring Winnie Lightner
Charles Butterworth
Evalyn Knapp
Donald Cook
Guy Kibbee
Music by Leo F. Forbstein
Cinematography Devereaux Jennings
Edited by James Gibbon
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s)
  • September 19, 1931 (1931-09-19)
Running time 66 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Side Show is a 1931 all-talking pre-code musical comedy drama film starring Winnie Lightner, Charles Butterworth, Evalyn Knapp and Donald Cook. It was produced and released by Warner Brothers. The film was based on a story by William K. Wells. Although it was planned and filmed as a full-scale musical, most of the songs were cut from the film before release due to the public's apathy and aversion towards musicals in 1931.


Pat (Winnie Lightner) does everything she can to keep the struggling Colonel Gowdy Big City Shows traveling circus afloat, despite an alcoholic though well-meaning Colonel Gowdy (Guy Kibbee) and disgruntled unpaid workers. She sings and dances, and even does a high dive into a shallow pool of water when the "Great Santini" quits just before a performance. One of her few comforts is her love for barker Joe Palmer (Donald Cook). He, however, seems less enthused about the relationship and regularly takes money from her. To add to her troubles, her younger sister Irene (Evalyn Knapp), whom she is having educated to become a lady, visits her during school vacation and wants to stay with the circus.

Irene and Tom fall in love. When Pat finds out, she sends Irene back to school, fires Tom, and tells Gowdy she is quitting the circus. Fortunately, Tom and Irene come to their senses, and Tom asks Pat to marry him.


  • Winnie Lightner as Pat. The film's director, Roy Del Ruth, later fell in love with Lightner and married her in 1948.
  • Charles Butterworth as Sidney, a circus worker who loves Pat and keeps spouting odd, illogical sentences
  • Evalyn Knapp as Irene
  • Donald Cook (actor) as Joe Palmer
  • Guy Kibbee as Colonel Gowdy
  • Matthew Betz as Tom Whalen
  • Fred Kelsey as Sheriff Hornsby
  • Tom Ricketts as Tom


  • "She Came from a South Sea Isle", sung by Winnie Lightner


The film was originally intended to be released in the United States early in 1931, but was shelved due to public apathy towards musicals. After waiting a number of months for public tastes to change, Warner Bros. reluctantly released the film in September 1931 after removing all the music except for one song, "What Do You Think of Me Now?" sung by Lightner. The film was released outside the United States (where there was no aversion to musicals) as a full musical comedy early in 1931.


Only the cut print released in 1931 in the United States is known to have survived.

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