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This is one of my favorite Merchant/Ivory films. I first saw it when I was a
movie usher in 1975 and American International released a very butchered
version that cut out a lot of character info and played up the sex and
nudity. Many many years later on cable TV I came across the restored version
with new scenes and re-edited old ones and it plays like an entirely new
James Coco is silent movie comic Jolly Grimm, desperate to save his slipping career by pitching his new film at a Hollywood party. Raquel Welch is his mistress, Queenie, a former showgirl who puts up with Grimm's temper and beatings longer than she should.
The film takes place in a frantic 24-hour period wherein just about every disaster and humiliation possible befalls Grimm, leading up to the tragic/dramatic finale. The titular party is more tacky than wild, but it looks like a lot of fun, populated as it is by a host of curious Hollywood characters. Coco is a standout in a role that should have received more attention. The same holds for Welch who works like a Trojan (and kinda dances like one in her numerous musical numbers,) and while never quite pulling off the dialog ("Ya big lug!"), is rather endearing in her efforts. Special applause for Tiffany Bolling as Welch's best friend. She is funny and real and would have made a wonderfully vulnerable Queenie.
Even when being batted around by Coco, Welch looks like she could punch Coco into the sound era.
Though essentially a tragedy, "The Wild Party" is too flawed to be moving, but is a really enjoyable and visually rich film. The musical score (featuring "The Herbert Hoover Drag") is a gem!
Unforgettable, very well done depticition of decadent 1920s Hollywood. Raquel Welch is superb as the desperate, sweet mistress of a deeply disturbed overweight and washed up comic named Jolly Grimm, ably played by James Coco. To resuscitate his career, Jolly throws a party that ends in tragedy. Very loosley based on Fatty Arbuckles story, this unforgettable and devastating film features fine support from Perry King as a Valentiniesque actor, and especailly from Miss Tiffany Bolling, as a lovely but unhappy film starlet. All in all, a class A effort that should have gotten a better recption at the time, but may well emerge as a cult classic. It is newly released on DVD , which should add to the fine film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Loosely based on the 1920's film star Fatty Arbuckle scandal (in which he was tried, but acquitted of raping a young girl during a Hollywood party, resulting in the demise of his career), this is adapted from a narrative poem that has some similarities to Arbuckle, but notable differences as well. Dukes plays a writer who narrates the story from his hospital bed. He recounts the difficulty that his associate, silent film comedian Coco, has had in holding onto a career in the cinema business. Coco hasn't had a film released in five years and is throwing a huge bash in order to show his latest opus to various studio heads in the hopes that they will distribute it for him. Unfortunately for him, it's the dawn of sound and his film is silent. His live-in lover Welch is a grateful and loyal, but restless, sexpot who he mistreats regularly (and increasingly, as his career dwindles.) Together, Coco and Welch host this bash and soon find that the studio heads are more interested in other parties or in hooking up with loose women on the premises. King plays a hot new actor who's brought to the party by starlet Bolling, who is one of Welch's best friends. Once he eyes Welch, King can think of virtually nothing else the rest of the night. Meanwhile, Ferra, a teenage girl, has come to show Coco her talent in dancing, never dreaming of all the angst and drama unfolding in the house. Eventually, the party escalates into a near full-on orgy and the divergent personalities clash, ending in violence. Coco gives an extremely strong performance in one of his better roles. His desperation is palpable and he gets to show both his comic and dramatic skills through the framework of the film. Welch is attractive, but very plastic and anachronistic. She never seems genuine at any point in the film. Her character is supposed to be acting like a content and secure hostess, but Welch carries this facade throughout the entire film with only occasional lapses into realism. She also performs a couple of sexy, but largely inappropriate dance numbers. King provides a welcome does of male sex appeal. His angular features are a perfect contrast to the rotund Coco and he shows off his enticing physique in one key scene. Dukes, Bolling and Dano (as Coco's long-time chauffeur) do well in their respective roles as well. The biggest problem with the film is that nothing wild happens until it is almost over! The period costuming and decor are interesting and there are some good moments along the way, but the high-flying, wildness is not in evidence at all until over an hour into it. Then, when the debauchery starts, it is pretty tame all things considered (certainly compared to the REAL parties of 1920's and 1930's Hollywood!) Those familiar with the Arbuckle case may be expecting the story to take a different turn than it does. It's actually a pleasant surprise when things don't go exactly as one might be anticipating, but the major catalyst for the violence at the end isn't even shown! (A particular lovers tryst is only alluded to.) A whimsical score (with some clever songs), good acting by Coco and the attractiveness of Welch and King are the primary assets here. It's not bad, but it could have been much better.
**SPOILERS** Surviving from what happened in the wild party of the
night before at comedy legend Jolly Grimm ,James Coco, mansion writer
Jimmy Morrison, David Dukes, is laid up in his hospital bed recovering
from a bullet wound in his neck. Jimmy is doing what he does best
writing a screenplay about the terrible events that put him in the
hospital and ended up taking the lives of two people, one a major
screen heart-throb, at the party.
It all started when comedian Jolly Grimm who hadn't made a movie in years invited all the Hollywood big shot producers and a number of actors actresses, and hangers on, to his place to view his new film "Brother Jasper" that he hoped will re-start his fledgling career. Having had an amazing 27 hits in a row Grimm is now considered a has-been by the studios and hasn't been giving any staring parts in any of their major motion pictures. Grimm decided to go over their heads and make a movie that he stares in and and directed himself. Grimm still needs the Hollywood honchos to distribute his movie for it to reach the public and it's at the party that Grimm is throwing that he hopes to impress them in just doing that.
Tense and nervous the day before the big party Grimm takes it out on his live-in girlfriend Queenie, Requal Welch, who put up with his manic-depressive actions for years but now it seems that even she reached her breaking point with Grimm unable, or not wanting, to control his violent outbursts anymore that she's at the receiving end.
Showing Jimmy the movie "Brother Jasper" to get his professional opinion Grimm's told that the movie needs a number of changes or cuts, like a comedic cannibal scene,in what's supposed to be a heart-wrenching and serious film, that has poor Jimmy almost thrown out of the Grimm Mansion. With all the Hollywood illuminates showing up to see what Grimm hoped to be his masterpiece and the movie that would catapult him back on top of the weekly theater ticket receipts, and on the silver screen, things don't go as well as Grimm hoped in fact the party turns out to be a total and deadly disaster for him.
Loosely based on an incident about actor Fatty Arbuckle back in the 1920's when he was arrested and put on trial for the rape and murder of a young starlet that he invited to a drunken party, and orgy, of his. Arbuckle was found innocent but his career was finished and he died a poor and broken man some ten years later.
James Coco is at his best as the tragic Jolly Grimm who ends up not only losing any chance of getting back in the Hollywood limelight but also looses Queenie first to movie matinée idol Dale Sword, Perry King, and then ends up losing her life due to his jealous and uncountable rage. Grimm is not at all that much of a villain in the film "The Wild Party" he's more a victim of his own spectacular success.
Sweet and loving at first when he took Queenie off the street and gave her a place to stay, in his, mansion and put her in a number of his movies as well, as taking care off all her needs Grimm also treated Queenie as an equal not as someone who's totally dependent on him. It was only when his career started to fall apart that Grimm became an abusive swine towards her as well as everyone else.
With the party degenerating into an orgy free for all and Queenie leaving Grimm, by going off with Dale Sword, all by himself that the drinks and suspicions that were overwhelming his already fragile mind took control and Grimm lost it as well as lost what life and freedom that he still had left.
(Very) loosely based on the Fatty Arbuckle scandal from circa 1921,
this film is set in 1929, and based on a poem from that era, which I
have not read, a few lines of which are voiced over in the film. James
Coco's character was very annoying. This is not really criticism,
because that was obviously intentional. Perry King played his part as
melodramatically as a scene from the times. Royal Dano was excellent as
befits his long and distinguished career as a character actor.
It has been a long time since I have seen a film with Raquel Welch. She was long mocked back in the day (before silicone) as just a big pair of boobs, but I found her performance compelling, and the best part of this movie.
The famous poem of the 1920s becomes an ambitious meeting of American International and Merchant-Ivory, who sink into a most un-Merchant-Ivory-like Hollywood orgy in this tale suggested by, but not actually dramatizing, the Fatty Arbuckle scandal that ruined his career. With a screenplay and songs by Broadway songwriter Walter Marks, it seems to lick its lips at all prospects for lasciviousness, reveling in the bare breasts and spent drunken bodies the morning after. The songs are OK, and James Coco's excellent, carefully indicating the conflicting warmth, selfishness, and desperation in Jolly Grimm. But Raquel Welch feels anachronistic, not convincingly of the Twenties, and her singing and dancing are at best proficient. It's a messy movie, the plot threads not really hanging together, and the trendy camera-work belongs to 1975 and 1975 only. Let's call it an interesting failure.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an interesting and ambitious feature that has much to recommend
it--and a fair number of strikes against it, too. On the credit side,
James Coco is outstanding in the lead role of Jolly Grimm, an aging
screen comic desperate to make a comeback. He's ably supported by David
Dukes as his straight arrow screen collaborator and especially by Royal
Dano as his lanky and loyal personal assistant. The story is simple but
interesting, the silent film footage of Brother Jasper expertly
mounted, and there's an eerily effective and almost otherworldly
performance by the unheralded Annette Ferra as an ambitious young
And now for the not so good news: despite a praiseworthy attempt to drape this in Roaring '20s ambiance, a few too many 1970s anachronisms--clothing wise and hairstyle wise--creep distractingly into the background, the original songs are generally mediocre, and the sensational sex scenes are gratuitous at best. The result is a somewhat schizophrenic production that uneasily tries to balance a serious story with five minutes of over the top group grope scenes which will offend some and disappoint others. There's enough here to render these scenes superfluous, but even with their inclusion the film remains a fine character study that will hold the attention of those interested in the history--apocryphal or otherwise--of early Hollywood.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
SPOILER ALERT The then new Merchant Ivory team made some odd choices
for this remake portrayal of old Hollywood decadence. It was shot at
the Mission Inn in Riverside, California, a beautiful old mission style
high end hotel. (The Nixons spent their honeymoon there.) So the
production design and costumes are gorgeous, if dimly lit.
The late James Coco shows impressive range and talent as the jealous clown protagonist who hits rock bottom in front of everyone. For the record, Fatty Arbuckle, upon whom Coco's character was based, was much younger and more physically impressive.
Raquel Welch was at her peak, but she has a rather poorly written role. This is one of her many weird films; see, e.g. Myra Breckinridge.
Somebody, someday will film an orgy and make it look good and inviting, instead of the sweaty, nauseating nightmare here. Despite these complaints, the performances and production values hold up surprisingly well thirty years later. Worth a look.
The combination of director James Ivory and his producing partner Ismail Merchant with sensual star Raquel Welch should have resulted in a dynamic art-house hit, but "The Wild Party" is a series of missed opportunities (you're more acutely aware of all the possibilities that went unrealized than you are gripped by what made it to the screen). Loosely based on the Fatty Arbuckle scandal, this is a well-intentioned, noble failure with James Coco playing a silent-screen star in early 1930s Hollywood who throws a bash to celebrate his comeback in talkies, but his big night goes awry. A.I.P. recut the film for its theatrical run to punch up the sex--which gave the pic something of a sullied reputation--however MGM has since restored Ivory's cut. Coco, Welch (as mistress Queenie), and Perry King (as another in his stable of studs) all do fine work, and some of the dialogue has snap. The film is certainly a curiosity, but Ivory's handling is plastic and his pacing and musical effects are colorless. *1/2 from ****
The Wild Party is probably based on several wild parties and scandals which took place during Hollywood's silent era when movie stars could do almost anything they wanted behind closed doors without having to worry too much of exposure as there were no real tabloid magazines at the time. James Coco plays a washed-up, silent movie comic who throws a wild party at his home, thinking it will save his career but doesn't count on the extent of depravity of some of his guests. At times, the film is highly realistic and makes you wonder about current Hollywood parties and what really goes on between co-stars. The film has a great 1920's look and the music also adds to the feel. The film is hard to define. It's sort of a historical drama, crossed with black comedy but a pretty good one at that.
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