Smiley Johnson (Joe Cook) has a unique job: he manages the Greater John T. Rainey Circus, which performs twice a day, rain or shine. He works for Mary Rainey (Joan Peers), who inherited the circus from her father.

While such a unique profession has its share of fun and excitement, Smiley also faces a lot of struggles. In addition to bad luck with the weather and discontent among the performers, Mary is constantly worried about the bills required to keep the outfit moving.

Smiley does his best to help her by raising money and making deals, but his job gets even more complicated when the performers decide to go on strike.

Frank Capra directs 1930’s Rain or Shine, a “dramedy” based on a 1928 Broadway musical.

(Image via Caratulas de Directores)
(Image via Caratulas de Directores)

Frank Capra is one of my favorite directors, and I own this film as a part of the Frank Capra: The Early Collection DVD set from the TCM Vault. I purchased the set for the four Capra/Stanwyck films it contains, and had put off watching Rain or Shine simply because the plot didn’t sound very interesting to me. There are a lot of films on my “to watch” list, and a film about the circus is usually not going to be given high priority.

That is why it took over two years after purchasing the set (which was released by TCM in September 2012) for me to finally get around to watching Rain or Shine. And unfortunately, I can say I didn’t miss out on much by waiting so long. This isn’t one of those films that you wish you’d discovered earlier after watching it for the first time.

That’s not to say it’s necessarily a bad film. It’s just inconsistent. There are some truly funny scenes and bits of dialogue, but sometimes those attempts to be funny fail miserably (such as the scene in which the circus’ “fat woman” falls out of the wagon). There is some drama, but none particularly gripping.

The film does have its positives. The performances are good, and (in typical Capra talkie fashion) very natural in comparison with the stiff dialogue delivery that can be seen in many other early sound films. Joe Cook, a major vaudeville star who only made two feature-length films, is fun to watch as Smiley Johnson.

Though the level of drama isn’t incredibly high, it isn’t so dull as to lose the viewer’s attention.

Rain or Shine is just a middle-of-the-road film. Though I went in knowing the plot wasn’t the most interesting to me personally, I still expected more from a Capra film, especially one that is paired in a set with a few of my top-ranking Capra pictures. The score: 2.5/5