Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Wet Parade

What would be to most people a dull, preachy movie about the evils of alcoholism was enjoyable to me in large part due to the amazing cast the studio managed to put together. Our roster of performers includes Judge Hardy, Commissioner Gordon, Mrs. Nick Charles, Auntie Em, Marcus Welby, The Schnozzola, and Jerry Cohan. Oh, and Wallace Ford.

The movie tells the stories of two families, the southern Chilcotes and the northern Tarletons (they are divided this way in the credits). Both families are plagued with alcoholic fathers: Roger Chilcote, Sr. (played by Lewis Stone dressed like Colonel Sanders) is aware on some level that he has a problem, but despite his best efforts, is unable to get sober. Pow Tarleton (Walter Huston with a curly mustache he can't stop twirling) is in denial up to his eyeballs, steals money from his family's business to support his habit, and is basically a big blowhard.  It's a testament to Huston's excellent acting that I wanted to punch Tarleton in the face for the entire movie, and I was not at all sorry when he met his eventual fate.

Roger Jr. (totally handsome Neil Hamilton) does not learn from his father's example and takes to drink himself, despite the pleas of his sister Maggie May (Dorothy Jordan), who is nicknamed "Persimmon" for reasons not entirely clear. She goes all Carry Nation on everyone, sometimes with too much hysteria. Sharing her sentiments is Kip Tarleton (Robert Young), who tries to support his mother (Clara Bandick) and keep the family's hotel afloat while his father drinks all the profits. The two meet when Roger Jr. moves to New York, and Maggie follows him to keep an eye on him. What eventually happens to Roger Jr., I found to be unexpected (I was sure he'd kick the bucket), and I was pleasantly surprised by how that part of the plot proceeded.

Also appearing are Myrna Loy as Eileen, Roger Jr.'s actress girlfriend, Wallace Ford (rather under used) as Roger and Kip's reporter friend Jerry, and Jimmy Durante as (wait for it) a Prohibition agent with an inordinate penchant for saying "ha cha cha!" The concept is perhaps dated (as far as Prohibition goes; I think the alcoholism is still very relevant today), but it still makes for a compelling story.

See? That costume is finger lickin' good.