>> Monday, May 28, 2007
USA/C-108m./Dir: James Ivory/Wr: Walter Marks/Cast: James Coco (Jolly Grimm), Raquel Welch (Queenie), David Dukes (James Morrison), Perry King (Dale Sword), Tiffany Bolling (Kate), Royal Dano (Tex), Annette Ferra (Nadine)
Long before the team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory became famous for period dramas like A Room With a View (1985) and Howard's End (1992) they produced this dreary, ham-fisted drama about a hedonistic Hollywood party at the end of the 1920's. James Coco stars as Jolly Grimm, a washed-up, alcoholic silent film comedian who throws the soiree to screen his new film, in hopes of selling it to a studio. Unfortunately, his guests are more interested in engaging in boozing, sexual debauchery, and ogling Queenie (Raquel Welch), Jolly's maltreated mistress, than watching the movie on which the comic has pinned his hopes. As Jolly begins to realize that his plans for a comeback have failed, he dives deeper into drink and despair, which ultimately ends in tragedy.
The Wild Party was loosely based upon Joseph Moncure March's narrative poem of the same name, mixed with touches of Hollywood's Fatty Arbuckle scandal. On top of that, the picture was originally envisioned as a musical, and the resulting muddle can't decide whether it's supposed to be a poetry recital, straight drama, or song and dance. It really doesn't matter that the movie never arrives at a decision, because the drama, poetry, and musical numbers are handled with equal ineptitude.
There are a few elements working in the film's favor, namely Coco's excellent performance and Welch's astounding physical attributes (her body looks great wriggling in a nightgown). Still, although the cast tries hard, they can't compensate for bad direction, a poorly written script, and crappy songs. It's hard to imagine how anyone involved in this dismal production thought that anyone would find it entertaining. You'd be smart to decline an invitation to this party.
It should be noted that although Fatty Arbuckle became embroiled in a scandal following a party that he hosted, his case was nothing like what is portrayed in this film. Arbuckle was innocent of the charges waged against him, and he was merely a victim of the Hollywood gossip machine.
Drinks Consumed--Wiskey, gin, and champagne
Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, stumbling, slurred speech, sentimentality, bickering, brawling, physical violence, public disturbance, loosened inhibitions, soused sex, and passing out
Potent Quotables--MAID: Here’s the list of liquor for the party tonight.
TEX: Twenty cases of gin?
MAID: Jolly wants you to leave right away for Pasedena. He says, “Remember, Ginsberg sent ya.”
MAID: Ginsberg, the bootlegger.
Video Availability--The Wild Party DVD (MGM)
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Dick Van Dyke portrayed another alky comedian of the silent era in The Comic (1969).
The Wild Party: The Lost Classic by Joseph Moncure March