Saturday 7 April 2007

The Wet Parade (1932) Victor Fleming

I think it's fair to say I hadn't a clue what to expect here. I recorded it because of the presence of Walter Huston and Myrna Loy, but the title credits list no less than ten stars: Dorothy Jordan, Robert Young, Lewis Stone, Walter Huston, Jimmy Durante, Myrna Loy, Neil Hamilton, Wallace Ford, Joan Marsh and John Miljan. That's a serious level of talent for a picture in 1932, especially as there are other names like Clara Blandick, John Beck and Clarence Muse that didn't even make the list. Then the film starts and it looks like a sequel to Show Boat, with boats setting off down the Mississippi and industrious black women shouting at lazy black men.

What the title is referring to though is drink. Lewis Stone who looked old when he was young looks appropriately old as a Louisiana colonel rather fond of bourbon. His daughter, Maggie May, isn't happy about it and he knows it. Suddenly this becomes a high class expose on the evils of liquor, with Maggie May starting up the 1932 version of the ten step plan to help him quit, but of course he falls off the wagon hardly before he manages to get on and nearly bankrupts the family in the process.

Then we leap into the city, New York City at that, to a hotel run by Clara Blandick and Walter Huston, the Tarletons. Huston is as patriotic as ever but he's also the drunk in the family and has no compunctions popping into the local bar with the money his tenants have ponied up for a pharmacy trip. Before long the Volstead Act has passed and prohibition is about to come into effect. Maggie May comes to see her brother, who has been following his father's ways, and ends up falling for young Kip Tarleton.

The tone is highly judgemental and the message is clear: nothing good can come from alcohol. Now I used to drink but don't any more but I hold no great ill feeling towards the stuff. I'm far more interested in the freedom to have another drink if I wanted to or to leave it well alone if I wanted that instead. That open feeling made this film very unpalatable. I could enjoy some of the performances, especially those of Walter Huston and Robert Young, but that's about it. Jimmy Durante is exactly as you'd expect as a prohibition investigator and Myrna Loy looks very out of type indeed as a blonde nightclub owner. Dorothy Jordan didn't impress at all.

1 comment:

garv said...

I just watched this film for my Booze Movie blog. I can't call it a good picture, but I found myself diverted. While the moralizing was off-putting, I was fascinated by the period detail.

Also, although it wasn't stated directly, I got the distinct impression that Lewis Stone's character was eaten by pigs.