Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus (December 2, 1938)

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Peck's Bad Boy with the Circus

Released on December 2, 1938: Young Bill Peck and his friends find adventure, intrigue and excitement at the circus.

Directed by Edward F. Cline

The Actors: Tommy Kelly (Bill Peck), Ann Gillis (Fleurette de Cava), Edgar Kennedy (Arthur Bailey), Benita Hume (Myrna Daro), Billy Gilbert (Bud Boggs), Grant Mitchell (Henry Peck), Nana Bryant (Mrs. Henry Pek), George 'Spanky' McFarland (Pee Wee), Louise Beavers (Cassey), William Demarest (Daro, circus manager), Mickey Rentschler (Herman Boggs), Fay Helm (Mrs. De Cava), Harry Stubbs (Hank), Wade Boteler (Murphy), Dick Chandlee (young boy), Eddy Chandler (Jim, circus cop), Lester Dorr (circus usher), Jack Gargan (ticket vendor), Earl Hodgins (circus barker), Malcolm Hutton (young boy), Leonard Kibrick (one of Bill's friends), Sidney Kibrick (one of Bill's friends), Robert McKenzie (circus sign hanger), Dickie Meyers (young boy), Herbert Rawlinson (race judge), Jack Wagner (young boy).


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Until I found my 'passion' for old movies and television programs, I thought that my life was pretty much wasted time. When I was a young man, the 'norm' that I saw for adults was to choose a job or career, work hard for 40 years or so, and retire happy, having worked for one company or at one career for all of your life. All of the older folks that I was around had this history. For instance, the Youngstown, Ohio steel mills were jammed with men who started work when they were 16 years old, or thereabouts, and worked in the same mill until the day they retired. Thanks to the steel mill they were able to raise a good family, have a solid middle class life, and retire to a wonderful pension. But I was cursed with choosing jobs with companies that went bankrupt, or picking jobs that I just couldn't stand after a while and my wander-lust feet caused me to quit in search of that next, better job. I have had more jobs in more totally different fields than Carter has little liver pills. Heh, sorry about that Carter reference, kiddies - if you aren't an old fart you won't understand. Anyway, I always looked at my many career fields, and the inability to stay put in one job for all of my working life as a bad thing, but I now see that it was a tremendous blessing. Why, today I would have nothing to write about if my whole life had been spent twisting a bolt onto a widget 8 hours a day for forty years. Instead I can recall for you my week with a travelling carnival, way back when I was about the age of the young fellow in this movie.

Today it probably isn't easy for a youngster to work for a carnival or circus, but 'back in the day' it was as easy as walking up to the carnival as they were beginning to unload their trucks and asking if they wanted any help. No paperwork, and I don't even know that they asked us what our names were. I was living in Shanksville, Pennsylvania with my Dad, Mom and sister Carol . . . Carol was going to college at Oral Roberts University, but was home for the summer. I had a friend who told me that the carnival was coming to Somerset on Monday for the week, and we should go over and see if we could earn some money doing something for them. Dad didn't mind if I went with the friend to ask about work at the carnival, so off we went. Early Monday morning we went to the shopping plaza in Somerset that had advertised a carnival for the week, and within fifteen minutes of asking for work we had our shirts off and were busy helping to put together the rides with a couple of older men. I was so dumb . . . we worked all day long in the hot summer sunshine without our shirts on so that we would be 'cooler' - and I suffered the worst sunburn on my back that I have ever had before or since. Live and learn . . . live and learn.

Oh to be sixteen again and know what I know now. But life is an adventure, and learning along the way is much of the fun. I am grateful that my father gave me a lot of latitude and allowed me to jump into life with both feet. For a couple of days my friend and I thought about travelling for the summer with this carnival, sleeping in the back of an empty truck from town to town, living like hobos. Fortunately, because of the treachery of the carnival ride owner we didn't stick around longer than the one week in Somerset.

Grab a big bowl of white kernel popcorn and if you are a youngster in heart, run away with the circus and Bill Peck and enjoy an hour of excitement and adventure like every youngster should have while growing up.

Tommy KellySpanky McFarland
Tommy Kelly as William PeckGeorge 'Spanky' McFarland
Ann GillisNana Bryant and Grant Mitchell
Ann GillisNana Bryant and Grant Mitchell
Grant MitchellEdgar Kennedy
Grant MitchellEdgar Kennedy, lion tamer
Edgar Kennedy and the boysWilliam Demarest and Benita Hume
Edgar Kennedy and the boysWillliam Demarest and Benita Hume
Fay HelmBenita Hume
Fay HelmBenita Hume
Lester Dorr, Tommy Kelly and Eddy ChandlerTommy Kelly and Eddy Chandler
Lester Dorr, Tommy Kelly and Eddy ChandlerTommy Kelly and Eddy Chandler