Lewis Stone

The Wet Parade (1932)

The Wet Parade 1933

File this one under “misleading posters.” It really isn’t much of a romance.

In 1916, the Chilcote family is known for their wealth.  But all of that is lost when family patriarch Roger (Lewis Stone) goes on a bender and gambles away the family fortune.  Distraught over what he has done, Roger commits suicide.  His teetotaler daughter Maggie (Dorothy Jordan) wishes for prohibition, but her brother Richard, Jr. (Neil Hamilton) loves alcohol as much as his father did.  After his father’s death, Richard, Jr. heads north to write a play and moves into a hotel run by his friend Kip Tarleton (Robert Young) and his family.

 

Like the Chilcotes, the Tarleton family is also dealing with a loved one’s alcoholism.  Mrs. Tarleton (Clara Blandick) doesn’t drink and neither does Kip, but Kip’s father Pow (Walter Huston) drinks like a fish.  Richard arrives at Kip’s hotel just in time to hear the results of the 1916 presidential election.  When Woodrow Wilson wins, Pow and Richard are happy since Wilson is opposed to prohibition.  But despite Wilson’s anti-prohibition platform, prohibition soon becomes the law, and bootleg liquor becomes readily available.  When Pow drinks some bad bootleg alcohol, he flies into a rage when his wife confronts him about it and beats her to death.  Pow is sentenced to life in prison.

With his mother and father both out of the picture, Kip has no other choice but to close the family hotel.  But Kip gets a lot of support from Maggie, who he has since fallen in love with.  They get married and vow to wage war against bootleggers.  Meanwhile, Richard continues spending all his time drinking bootleg alcohol and starts dating nightclub owner Eileen Pinchon (Myrna Loy).  Kip gets a job working with Abe Shilling (Jimmy Durante) at the Treasury Department as a prohibition officer.  He does very well at his new job and the two of them even successfully shut down Eileen’s nightclub.  But Kip is so good at his job, bootleggers begin to target him and with Maggie now expecting a baby, Kip has to decide if his job is worth it.

The Wet Parade is an ambitious movie, but perhaps too ambitious for its own good.  I see the messages it was trying to convey, but the final result was heavy-handed and overly long.  I thought the character of Maggie was very underutilized. The movie opens with the story of her family, so it’s easy to think that she would be a prominent character in the rest of the movie, but no. Instead, she’s relegated to supporting character status after that and serves no real purpose other than to be on Kip’s side.  After her father’s death, she seemed quite passionate about prohibition but unfortunately, we don’t actually see her being active in the prohibition movement, it’s just talk.  It would have been nice to see her actually trying to do something about it.

But one thing The Wet Parade does have going for it is a strong cast.  The idea of Jimmy Durante the prohibition agent may sound strange, but I appreciated the comic relief he brought and will probably be one of the few things I strongly remember about The Wet Parade.

The Secret Six (1931)

The Secret Six 1931 PosterLooking to make some fast money, Scorpio (Wallace Beery) meets with gangsters Johnny Franks (Ralph Bellamy) and Mizoski (Paul Hurst) about joining a bootlegging racket.  They work for Newton (Lewis Stone) and he wants to muscle fellow bootlegger Joe Colimo (John Miljan) out of some of his territory.  Of course, Colimo isn’t about to take that sitting down. He gets into a gunfight with Newton’s guys and Colimo’s brother is killed in the crossfire.  When Colimo comes looking to get even, Johnny tries to set Scorpio up to take the fall, but Scorpio figures out what’s going on and turns the tables on Johnny.

With all the excitement, police and newspaper reporters flock to Newton’s headquarters.  Among them are reporters Hank (John Mack Brown) and Carl (Clark Gable), who take a linking to Newton’s associate Anne (Jean Harlow).  Each of them is hoping to get the scoop from Anne.  After the excitement surrounding Johnny and Colimo dies down, Scorpio  continues to prove to be a valuable asset to the gang and even helps get Mizoski elected as Mayor.  Not content with just running a small town, Scorpio sets his sights on taking over the big city, too.  But the big city doesn’t want Scorpio around. A group called The Secret Six is formed to fight his influence and Carl is recruited to help their cause.

The Secret Six is a somewhat unusual MGM movie in that it has none of the gloss generally associated with MGM movies and instead has all of the grit of a Warner Brothers movie.  Indeed, The Secret Six was produced by Irving Thalberg in an attempt to compete with Warner Brothers’ gangster hits like The Public Enemy. Although The Secret Six is an enjoyable movie with a good cast, it lacks the organic quality that Little Caesar and The Public Enemy have.   It’s a movie that tried so hard to follow a trend that it simply could not have that effortless quality of the trendsetter.

Mata Hari (1931)

In the midst of World War I, Chief Dubois (C. Henry Gordon) is hard at work seeing that traitors and spies are put to their deaths.  Lately, he’s been seeing a lot of men put in front of a firing squad for getting involved with Mata Hari (Greta Garbo), a spy who has been seducing important military officials to steal sensitive information from them.  Dubois wants to see to it that she is stopped.  Meanwhile, Russian Imperial Air Force Lieutenant Alexis Rosanoff (Ramon Novarro) has come to Paris to pick up some confidential documents he needs to deliver.  After he arrives, he is invited by General Shubin (Lionel Barrymore) to go see the infamous Mata Hari dance that night.

While Mata Hari dances, she wins over everybody in the room, but especially Alexis.  As soon as her performance is over, he is obsessed with meeting her.  Unbeknownst to him, Shubin has been carrying on an affair with Mata.  He knows that being caught with her would certainly mean his death, but he just can’t resist her charms.  After the show, Alexis waits for her outside the theater and does get to meet Mata.  Mata has had plenty of men in her life, but for the first time, she’s starting to feel something real for Alexis.  But when she finds out Alexis is the one with some documents she needs to steal, she has no other choice but to seduce him, too.  Mata’s feelings for Alexis pose a problem for her at work since her boss Andriani (Lewis Stone) very strongly believes that spies should never fall in love.  In fact, he feels so strongly about it that he even had one of Mata’s fellow spies killed after she fell in love.  Mata is ordered to carry on her relationship with Alexis but not get too attached to him.

Meanwhile, Dubois is still hot on Mata Hari’s trail and knows about Shubin’s relationship with her.  In an attempt to get Shubin to turn Mata in, he tells Shubin that she and Alexis have been having an affair, hoping that he would be so mad that he’d gladly give up all the information they need.  His plan works and Shubin confronts Mata, threatening to have her arrested.  Mata pulls out a gun and shoots him.  Andriani plans to send her to Amsterdam to avoid arrest, but before she leaves, she finds out that Alexis had been injured in a plane crash.  Andriani warns her not to go see him, but Mata isn’t willing to stay away and resigns from the spy ring.  But the only way to leave Andriani’s spy ring is by death.  Mata goes to the hospital to see Alexis and although she avoids Andriani’s hit man, she’s nabbed by the police, instead.  She pleads guilty and is set to be executed, but the last thing she wants is for Alexis to know what she has done.

I adore Greta Garbo, but Mata Hari isn’t one of my favorite movies of hers.  She’s good in it, but she’s been in movies with far better plots and Lionel Barrymore and Ramon Novarro have both given better performances in better movies.  The costumes are definitely interesting to look at.  They’re not the sort of things you look at and say, “Wow, I wish I had that in my closet!” but they’re fascinating because they are so completely over the top.  The way Adrian’s got her dressed, Mata Hari was the least inconspicuous spy of all time.  I’d say the best thing about Mata Hari is the cinematography, I liked what they did with shadows in several scenes.