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The Wet Parade

The Wet Parade(1932)

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teaser The Wet Parade (1932)

Irving Thalberg bought the rights to Upton Sinclair's Prohibition screed for $20,000 and paid silent film director Victor Fleming (then in profitable partnership with Douglas Fairbanks) twice as much to direct it. Fleming would go on to establish himself as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's premiere in-house helmsman, credited with making Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Gary Cooper into proper movie stars and hits out of such titles as Red Dust (1932), Treasure Island (1934), Captains Courageous (1937), and The Wizard of Oz (1939). An early sound film made well before enforcement of the Production Code, The Wet Parade (1932) wavers unevenly between tragedy and farce (the latter in the freewheeling form of Jimmy Durante, as a back-slapping Volstead agent) but boasts stark scenes of undeniable potency, as when ward boss Walter Huston beats wife Clara Blandick (The Wizard of Oz's stoic Auntie Em) to death in a fit of alcoholic pique or when Southern gentleman Lewis Stone, awakening from a bender to discover he has gambled away his family's security, crawls into a pigsty to commit suicide. The script by notorious Hollywood tippler John Mahin hates the sin but retains sympathy for the sinner, yet The Wet Parade proved too bitter a pill for Prohibition era audiences to swallow. Look fast for future MGM superstar Myrna Loy as a swank speakeasy's peroxided proprietress.

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