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Sprawling story of Prohibition set against two families and how they are affected by booze. The stories come together when two young people (Robert Young, Dorothy Jordan) join in a common fight against liquor because it has destroyed their families. Both pros and cons are presented, but the screenplay definitely sides with the abstainers. The fathers destroyed by demon rum are played by Walter Huston and Lewis Stone, and look for Jimmy Durante as a bearded federal agent! Written by
THE WET PARADE is the sort of old fashioned film that looked old and out of date even when it came out in 1932. In so many ways, this film is a carryover from the early silent anti-drinking melodramas of the first decade of the twentieth century--complete with ridiculously one-dimensional characters and a very heavy-handed message. In fact, the message is so heavy-handed that I seriously doubt if the anti-alcohol message had much effect on audiences--other than to elicit laughter! This is all very sad because very few films have ever addressed the impact of alcohol on its many victims (most of which aren't even the drinkers themselves)--too bad this was handled so poorly.
Why do I say it was handled poorly? Well, many of the drunks portrayed in the film are totally one-dimensional and the actors overact so much as they portray them. This was pretty apparent with Lewis Stone's character, but compared to the ridiculous guy played by Walter Huston, he was downright subtle. As for Huston, he seemed more like a Tourette's sufferer than anything else, as he REPEATEDLY twirled his handlebar mustache and grunted (some actual symptoms of the disorder--seriously). However, most in the audience today may not recognize him, but this character acts almost exactly like those from melodramas of 30 years earlier--widely exaggerating EVERYTHING and chewing the scenery! In many ways, he seemed like a drunk version of Snidely Whiplash! Now when it comes to the impact on those around these ridiculous drunks, the film did a much better job. The co-dependent family members and enabling friends were excellent touches--but still weren't enough to make up for the awful characters played by Stone and Huston.
Other than these silly drunks, the film also chronicled the history of the prohibition movement--and this was mildly interesting from a historical point of view. What I learned from the movie is that what really helped this anti-liquor crusade was WWI and moves to stop the production of intoxicants in order to feed our troops and starving Europeans. An interesting tidbit amongst the "sledgehammer symbolism" throughout this entire film.
If anyone knows of a movie to SERIOUSLY address alcoholism from this era, let me know--as for THE WET PARADE, it's practically cartoon-like in its generalizations and bad characterizations. It's good for a laugh and maybe a brief history lesson buried within, but that's about all.
FYI--The director of this film, Victor Fleming, was himself an extremely heavy drinker according to several biographies I've read (including CLARA BOW: RUNNING WILD). And, ironically, if you read the biography for Huston on IMDb, he apparently was the master of ceremonies at a brewery party the night Prohibition expired!!
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