When the daughter of the town's leading citizen and a local dairyman have a romance,and the man makes a sudden-and-unexplained trip out of town, the local gossips, employing the small-town's shared telephone lines, start a malicious gossip campaign discussing the assumed-but-incorrect reason. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
This is an interesting case where a film's rating doesn't really reflect how watchable a film is. I think PARTY WIRE earned a 7--mostly because although it had a very good story, it also wasn't exactly subtle or believable. However, it was extremely fun to watch despite its limitations as "art".
The film is about a horrid little town where they use a party line. For those whippersnappers out there who don't know what one is, it's a system where the people in a community share a phone line. It's cheaper and easier than installing separate lines but its major drawback is that ANYONE in the system can eavesdrop on others' conversations. In this nasty town, practically all the old ladies spend much of their time listening in--as they take perverse pleasure in spreading gossip. While they don't show the men listening in, they are just as bad because once their wives learn "the truth" about others, they, too, spread these tales.
Victor Jory plays a rich business man who returns to this town after many years' absence. Practically the entire town learns he's coming well in advance due to the party line and many of them are hopeful they can ride his coattails to wealth. However, Jory just wants to relax on his vacation and catch up with a girl (Jean Arthur) and her father (Charley Grapewin). However, during this visit, the town gossips THINK that Arthur is pregnant by another man and the town treats her abominably--so it's up to her new fiancé to set the record straight and teach the town a well-earned lesson.
Stand out actors in the film were Victor Jory and Jean Arthur. As for Jory, though he made a ton of films, often he played villains and wasn't exactly the handsome leading man, but I liked him a lot in the film. He was a very solid actor and it was refreshing to see a normal looking leading man. As for Arthur, she was, as always, terrific.
Grapwin played a sort of crusty but lovable old coot. While his shtick was his love of applejack (home made apple alcohol), this was a bit hard to laugh at because I kept thinking he needed a 12-Step Program! It's funny how we laughed at this sort of stuff in the 1930s and today it would make some a bit uncomfortable.
Overall, the film excels at getting the audience to care about the characters and really wanting to see the town get their comeuppance. While subtlety isn't exactly emphasized (such as comparing the gossips to closeups of croaking frogs), it is enjoyable and worth seeing. For a similar film, though one that is handled much better, try seeing Henri-Georges Clouzot's LE CORBEAU. It's better written and makes the same point about gossip.
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