The Wild Party. 1929. USA. Directed by Dorothy Arzner. Screenplay by Samuel Hopkins Adams, E. Lloyd Sheldon. With Clara Bow, Fredric March, Marceline Day, Jack Oakie. 35mm preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 77 min.
There was a time, before David Stenn’s landmark biography Runnin’ Wild, when Clara Bow was frequently cited as a victim of talkies. Yet this was not the case, despite Bow’s understandable nerves while learning the new process. Her voice was pleasant, low-pitched and with a persistent hint of Brooklyn that audiences apparently liked, although critics sniped (as they so often did at Bow). This film, directed by Dorothy Arzner, was fans’ first chance to hear Bow talk. She plays college student Stella Ames, navigating compromising situations with (and, later, her love for) Professor “Gil” Gilmore (Fredric March). The female students at the college are boy-crazy and rarely caught learning anything; the antics don’t conform to recent notions of appropriate faculty behavior, to say the least. Yet even at this distance, the movie has a rollicking appeal—and that’s due mostly to Bow, one of Hollywood’s most charismatic performers. The Wild Party was a hit, and Bow continued to make successful talkies until her well-known personal and financial problems led to a stay in a sanatorium, and Paramount released her from her contract. Her last two films (Call Her Savage and Hoop-La) were made at Fox, after which she retired to Nevada with her husband, Rex Bell, and two sons.