Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Wild Party (1929)

Oh, dear, old Fredric March, how I love thee. It seems only yesterday (though it was many years ago), that I first saw you getting woed by the bewitching Veronica Lake in I Married a Witch. Since then, I have continued to see you in varied roles in so many movies that I love: Seven Days in May, A Star is Born, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, etc. etc. To me, you will always be the best Norman Maine, the best Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and the best ancient Roman prefect (I will get back to review you, Sign of the Cross, mark my words).

But before he was cavorting about ancient Rome in a short tunic and a perm, Mr. March was trying to teach flirtatious females college students about Anthropology. I am of course referring to one of his first staring role, the 20's time capsule that is The Wild Party.

And, boy oh boy is this a product of the Roaring Twenties. There is the Carleston, a speakeasy, never-ending innuendo, and, of course, flappers. And the most flappin' of the flappers is none other that Clara Bow, the "real star" of the picture.

She is a happy-go-lucky student who is popular but a bit on the wild side. She mets cute with the new professor (March's role) on a train, and has a romance with him. Add in a subplot about her studious best friend who is working hard for a scholarship, and you have the film in a nut shell.

Now, considering her well-known mike fright,  Ms. Bow was not half bad. She had a kind of natural perkiness and warmth that was really quite charming. Alas, March is rather dull and does not leave much of an impression, with the exception perhaps of his mustache.

But is this a good movie? Well..... it is a product of its time: remeber when the main reason girls went to college was to party and to find a nice guy to settle down with? This is a really early talkie, so the shots are static and the dialogue is very stilted. I have to give the film kudos, however, for presenting the best friend as an attractive, intelligent girl who is dedicated to her education, but does not let that prevent her from having some fun.

Also worth noting is that this film is a product of Dorothy Arzner, who was a rare successful woman director of the Studio system. I have only previously seen two of her films, Dance, Girl Dance and Merrily We Go to Hell (1932, again with Fredric March), but I plan on seeing more.

Though not necessary viewing, I think that this film is worth a look if you a fan of either star, early talkies, or a cinematic portrait of the "wild party" of the Twenties just before the hangover of the Depression.

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