Based on the oft-filmed play by Kenyon Nicholson, The Barker represented the talking-picture debut of silent-screen favorite Milton Sills (the film itself is a part-talkie, containing 38 minutes' worth of dialogue). Sills is cast as Nifty Miller, veteran sideshow barker for a cheap carnival. Miller is determined that his young son Chris (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) will not follow in his footsteps but will instead attend law school. But Chris cannot help but be drawn to carnival life -- especially when he meets pretty "carney" Lou (Dorothy Mackaill). The film ran into some state-by-state censorship problems due to the scanty costumes worn by the female cast members. Herman Mankiewicz was among the screenwriters of The Barker, which received a latter-day fame of sorts when its crowded opening-credit title was reproduced in the pages of Kevin Brownlow's silent-film retrospective The Parade's Gone By.
by Hal Erickson synopsis