Synopsis by Mark Deming
Wallace Beery plays P.T. Barnum in this comic biography of the renowned showman. As the story opens, Phineas Taylor Barnum is operating a dry goods store in New York City with his friend Bailey Walsh (Adolphe Menjou), and he is looking for a way to boost business. He strikes upon the idea of adding a sideshow of human oddities and curious individuals, much to the annoyance of his wife Nancy (Janet Beecher). But the sideshow brings in a large audience, and soon it begins to overtake the retail store; however, Barnum's venture comes to a halt when it is revealed that Zorro The Bearded Lady (May Boley) has fake facial hair,and that Joyce Heth (Lucille LaVerne) wasn't really George Washington's nursemaid, as she claims. Despite this setback, Barnum has developed a taste for show business, and he brings noted English singer Jenny Lind (Virginia Bruce) to the U.S. for a concert tour, where she becomes the toast of New York. Barnum soon becomes infatuated with Lind, and while his attempts to woo her are often fumblingly inept, they're effective enough to alienate Nancy, who leaves him and New York City for good. Between his attempts to romance Lind and his shameless ballyhoo for performing midget General Tom Thumb (George Brasno), Barnum finds himself on Walsh's bad side, who has taken to drinking to ease his anger. After his budding romance with Lind fails, Barnum suffers an even greater indignity when his museum, featuring his sideshow freaks and other wonders and oddities, is burned to the ground by angry rivals. However, Barnum's performers show their loyalty by offering their savings to Barnum to help him rebuild, and Nancy returns to Barnum's side in his moment of need. Walsh also appears, ready to bury the hatchet and show off his latest acquisition -- an elephant named Jumbo who could be used in a traveling act, or perhaps even a circus.... The Mighty Barnum was based on the play by Gene Fowler and Bess Meredyth, who also wrote the screenplay.
savings, entertainer, affection, attraction, Britain, bumbler, burn, carnival, city, collection, curiosity [inquisitiveness], disaster, elephant, expose [revelation], extramarital-affair, fame, fraud, freak, friendship, fumble, humiliation, life, loot, marital-problems, museum, parade, partner, party, plans, problems, reform [improve], rescue, return, shopkeeper, show, showman, sideshow, songwriter, store, suffering, talent, wife, news, play [recreation]