Polly of the Circus (1917 film)

Polly of the Circus is a 1917 American silent drama film notable as the first film produced by Samuel Goldwyn after founding his studio Goldwyn Pictures. This film starred Mae Marsh, usually an actress for D.W. Griffith, but now under contract to Goldwyn for a series of films. The film was based on a 1907 Broadway play by Margaret Mayo which starred Mabel Taliaferro.[1] Presumably when MGM remade the film in 1932 with Marion Davies, they still owned the screen rights inherited from the 1924 merger by Marcus Loew of the Metro, Goldwyn, and Louis B. Mayer studios.[2]

Polly of the Circus
Advertisement poster-print for the film
Directed byCharles T. Horan
Edwin L. Hollywood
Produced bySamuel Goldwyn
Written byAdrian Gil-Spear (scenario)
Emmett C. Hall (scenario)
Based onPolly of the Circus
by Margaret Mayo
StarringMae Marsh
CinematographyGeorge W. Hill
Distributed byGoldwyn Pictures
Release date
  • September 16, 1917 (1917-09-16)
Running time
8 reels
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)

This film marks the first appearance of Slats, the lion mascot of Goldwyn Pictures and (after the company's 1924 merger) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.[3]


As described in a film magazine,[4] the parents of Polly (Marsh), a little horseback rider, are dead, and circus performers Jim (Playter) and Toby (Eldridge) are her sponsors. One night while performing Polly is thrown from her horse and injured. She is taken to the home of parson John Douglas (Steele), and the circus is forced to leave without her. The parson finds in Polly someone different than anyone in his flock, but his liking for the circus rider does not please the members of the congregation. They force Polly to leave and she reenters the circus, but thoughts of the parson make her unhappy. After a year's separation, the circus comes to town again. Douglas has not forgotten his little circus performer, and one night he goes to the tent to visit her. She tries to send him away, but he will not go. The circus tents catch fire, and in the general confusion and wreckage, Douglas and Jim bring Polly to safety. In the arms of the parson, Polly bids her circus friends goodbye.


  • Mae Marsh as Polly
  • Vernon Steele as John Douglas the Minister
  • Charles Eldridge as Toby the Clown
  • Wellington A. Playter as Big Jim, Boss Canvasman
  • George S. Trimble as Barker and owner of the show
  • Lucille La Verne as Mandy
  • Dick Lee as Hasty, her lesser half
  • Charles Riegel as Deacon Strong
  • Lucille Southerwaite as The Deacon's Daughter (credited as Lucille Satterthwaite)
  • Jack B. Hollis as Deacon Elverson
  • Helen Sallinger as Mrs. Elverson
  • Isabel Vernon as Sallie
  • Viola Compton as Jane, the widow
  • John Carr as Jim
  • Stephen Carr as John


The film was once thought to be lost, the last copy destroyed in the 1965 MGM vault fire. However, a copy of it was found amid a collection of silent films buried in permafrost in Dawson City, Yukon, in 1978.[5] The Public Archives of Canada / Dawson City Collection possesses a print of this example of an early Goldwyn feature.[6]

Polly of the Circus was released on Region 0 DVD-R by Alpha Video on January 28, 2014.[7]


  1. Polly of the Circus as produced on Broadway at the Liberty Theatre, Dec. 23, 1907, 160 performances; IBDb.com
  2. The American Film Institute Catalog Feature Films: 1911-20 by The American Film Institute, c.1988
  3. "MGM Lyin'". Snopes.com. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  4. "Reviews: Polly of the Circus". Exhibitors Herald. New York: Exhibitors Herald Company. 5 (11): 27. September 8, 1917.
  5. Slide, Anthony. Nitrate Won't Wait: A History of Film Preservation in the United States 2000, p. 99. ISBN 0-7864-0836-7
  6. "Motion Pictures in the Library of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  7. "Alpha Video - Polly of the Circus". Retrieved 2014-01-30.
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