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HISTORY

The picture was based on Kenyon Nicholson’s 1927 play, The Barker, which starred Claudette Colbert. It debuted on Broadway on 18 Jan 1927 at the Biltmore Theatre, and ran for twenty-nine weeks, according to the 26 Jan 1927 Var.
       The 12 Apr 1927 FD announced that director George Fitzmaurice was leaving NY for the West Coast the following day to begin work on The Barker for First National Pictures, Inc.
       The 13 May 1927 Motion Picture News added that Fitzmaurice would be directing four upcoming First National productions, with The Barker listed among them.
       On 20 May 1927, Motion Picture News reported that John McCormick would produce, but it is unclear if he remained with the production. The 18 Sep 1927 FD announced that Benjamin Glazer was currently writing the adaptation.
       According to the 2 Nov 1927 Var, Hezi Tait, Fitzmaurice’s assistant, was gathering research for the film by traveling with several southern carnivals and “taking crowd shots.”
       Actor Jack Egan screen tested for The Barker, as noted in the 11 Mar 1928 FD, but he was not cast in the picture. The 25 Apr 1928 Var listed James Leo “One-Eyed” Connelly as a cast member. The first-time actor was a notorious “gate-crasher” at sporting events and a former gate-keeper at Fox Studios before making his screen debut as a sideshow ticket-taker in The Barker. The 2 May 1928 Var announced that Fred Warren had been added to the cast. Max Hellar served as second assistant to Fitzmaurice, as well as ... More Less

The picture was based on Kenyon Nicholson’s 1927 play, The Barker, which starred Claudette Colbert. It debuted on Broadway on 18 Jan 1927 at the Biltmore Theatre, and ran for twenty-nine weeks, according to the 26 Jan 1927 Var.
       The 12 Apr 1927 FD announced that director George Fitzmaurice was leaving NY for the West Coast the following day to begin work on The Barker for First National Pictures, Inc.
       The 13 May 1927 Motion Picture News added that Fitzmaurice would be directing four upcoming First National productions, with The Barker listed among them.
       On 20 May 1927, Motion Picture News reported that John McCormick would produce, but it is unclear if he remained with the production. The 18 Sep 1927 FD announced that Benjamin Glazer was currently writing the adaptation.
       According to the 2 Nov 1927 Var, Hezi Tait, Fitzmaurice’s assistant, was gathering research for the film by traveling with several southern carnivals and “taking crowd shots.”
       Actor Jack Egan screen tested for The Barker, as noted in the 11 Mar 1928 FD, but he was not cast in the picture. The 25 Apr 1928 Var listed James Leo “One-Eyed” Connelly as a cast member. The first-time actor was a notorious “gate-crasher” at sporting events and a former gate-keeper at Fox Studios before making his screen debut as a sideshow ticket-taker in The Barker. The 2 May 1928 Var announced that Fred Warren had been added to the cast. Max Hellar served as second assistant to Fitzmaurice, as well as appeared in an onscreen role, according to the 9 May 1928 Var. The 6 Jun 1928 Var added former light-weight boxing champion Charlie Sullivan to the line-up, and the 30 Jun 1928 Motion Picture News listed James Bradbury, Jr. Final cast additions included Constance Wilson, according to the 11 Aug 1928 Motion Picture News.
       The start of filming was repeatedly delayed. The 13 Sep 1927 FD anticipated a 1 Jan 1928 start and the 2 Nov 1927 Var revised the beginning to early Dec 1927. On 31 Mar 1928, Motion Picture News noted that production would begin the following month and a 28 Apr 1928 Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World production chart listed an 18 Apr 1928 shooting date. That day, however, Var reported that Dorothy Mackaill had halted production to ensue she was given equal billing with co-star Milton Sills. One week later, the 25 Apr 1928 Var indicated that the conflict was resolved, and principal photography finally began. The 19 May 1928 Motion Picture News noted that The Barker was in its fourth week of production, confirming that production began the week of 23 Apr 1928.
       The 2 Jun 1928 Motion Picture News reported that a full-scale carnival had been built for the production at First National Studios in Burbank, CA.
       On 13 Jun 1928, Var noted that the picture was being titled by Herman Mankiewicz, and the 16 Jun 1928 Motion Picture News confirmed that principal photography had completed within the previous few days.
       The 17 Jun 1928 FD announced that the picture was currently being edited, and a music score was expected to be added using First National’s “Firnatone” sound system, marking the second film to use the technology. However, the score was later credited to Vitaphone. The 21 Jul 1928 Motion Picture News announced that First National had signed a deal with the Western Electric Company to produce the sound recordings for at least thirty pictures for their upcoming season, including the addition of sound and dialogue for The Barker. Later news items indicated that the deal had fallen through, as First National had apparently decided to build their own sound stages for recording purposes.
       The 28 Jul 1928 Motion Picture News reported an anticipated Sep 1928 release date, but the 1 Aug 1928 Var stated that First National was unable to complete the dialogue for the film until Sep 1928 or later. According to the 22 Sep 1928 Motion Picture News, a 30 Sep 1928 release date was being delayed yet again.
       The 24 Oct 1928 Var indicated that delays were due to the fact that sound stages at First National were still being constructed. An agreement was made to use stages at Warner Bros. in Hollywood, CA. First National would have the actors from The Barker speak their lines on their own silent stages, and send the sound “over a wire” six miles away to Warner Bros. on Sunset Boulevard, where vocals would be recorded. Howard Bretherton had been hired to direct the dialogue sequences, as announced in the 7 Nov 1928 Var.
       The 21 Nov 1928 Var listed a 6 Dec 1928 opening date at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Los Angeles. The 5 Dec 1928 Var announced the opening of The Barker at New York City’s Central Theatre that evening. On 12 Dec 1928, Var reported $7,450 in opening night ticket sales at the Central, which included $5.50 tickets to the premiere.
       The 12 Dec 1928 Var review deemed The Barker an “excellent picture and a good talker,” praising the performances and George Fitzmaurice’s direction.
       Actress Betty Compson was nominated for an Academy Award in 1930.
       Additional versions of Kenyon Nicholson’s play were adapted to the screen in 1933 as Hoop-la, starring Clara Bow, and in 1945 as the musical Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe, starring Betty Grable and Dick Haymes (see entries). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World
28 Apr 1928
p. 83.
Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World
26 May 1928
p. 102.
Film Daily
6 Feb 1927
p. 11.
Film Daily
12 Apr 1927
p. 2.
Film Daily
8 May 1927
p. 7.
Film Daily
13 Sep 1927
p. 2.
Film Daily
18 Sep 1927
p. 6.
Film Daily
11 Mar 1928
p. 11.
Film Daily
17 Jun 1928
p. 6, 9.
Film Daily
9 Dec 1928.
---
Motion Picture News
13 May 1927
p. 1838.
Motion Picture News
20 May 1927
p. 1949.
Motion Picture News
31 Mar 1928
p. 1030.
Motion Picture News
7 Apr 1928
p. 1144.
Motion Picture News
5 May 1928
p. 1429.
Motion Picture News
19 May 1928
p. 1680.
Motion Picture News
2 Jun 1928
p. 1898.
Motion Picture News
16 Jun 1928
p. 2024.
Motion Picture News
30 Jun 1928
p. 2214.
Motion Picture News
21 Jul 1928
p. 205.
Motion Picture News
28 Jul 1928
p. 268.
Motion Picture News
11 Aug 1928
p. 468.
Motion Picture News
22 Sep 1928
p. 920.
New York Times
6 Dec 1928
p. 35.
Variety
26 Jan 1927
p. 46.
Variety
2 Nov 1927
p. 9.
Variety
18 Apr 1928
p. 3.
Variety
25 Apr 1928
p. 12, 62.
Variety
2 May 1928
p. 31.
Variety
9 May 1928
p. 47.
Variety
6 Jun 1928
p. 26.
Variety
13 Jun 1928
p. 16.
Variety
1 Aug 1928
p. 6.
Variety
24 Oct 1928
p. 5, 16.
Variety
7 Nov 1928
p. 62.
Variety
21 Nov 1928
p. 5.
Variety
5 Dec 1928
p. 9.
Variety
12 Dec 1928
p. 9, 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Barker by Kenyon Nicholson (New York, 1927).
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 December 1928
Premiere Information:
New York opening at the Central Theatre: 5 December 1928
Los Angeles opening at the Carthay Circle Theatre: 6 December 1928
Production Date:
late April--mid June 1928
Copyright Claimant:
First National Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 August 1928
Copyright Number:
LP25564
Physical Properties:
Silent with sound sequences
Music score by Vitaphone
Black and White
Sound, also silent
Also a silent version; 7,137 ft.
Duration(in mins):
86
Length(in feet):
7,870
Length(in reels):
8
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Nifty Miller, the greatest carnival barker in the world, sends his son, Chris, to law school in the hope that the boy will find in professional life a more settled and prosperous life than that of the sideshow. During one of his summer vacations, Chris finds work with the carnival, and Nifty breaks off his relationship with Carrie, a hula dancer who, seeking revenge for this slight, pays another carnival girl, Lou, to vamp the innocent boy; Lou, however, genuinely falls in love with Chris. When his father finds out that they are in love, Chris defiantly announces his intention to marry the girl. Seeing his ambitious plans for his son seemingly collapse, Nifty quits the carnival and turns to drink. He later finds out that Chris has returned to law school at Lou's urging. Offered a partnership in the carnival, Nifty returns to his former life as a ... +


Nifty Miller, the greatest carnival barker in the world, sends his son, Chris, to law school in the hope that the boy will find in professional life a more settled and prosperous life than that of the sideshow. During one of his summer vacations, Chris finds work with the carnival, and Nifty breaks off his relationship with Carrie, a hula dancer who, seeking revenge for this slight, pays another carnival girl, Lou, to vamp the innocent boy; Lou, however, genuinely falls in love with Chris. When his father finds out that they are in love, Chris defiantly announces his intention to marry the girl. Seeing his ambitious plans for his son seemingly collapse, Nifty quits the carnival and turns to drink. He later finds out that Chris has returned to law school at Lou's urging. Offered a partnership in the carnival, Nifty returns to his former life as a barker. +

GENRE
Genre:
Sub-genre:
Carnival/Circus


Subject

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.