(director: Dorothy Arzner; screenwriters: from a story by Warner Fabian /E. Lloyd Sheldon/George Marion, Jr./John V.A. Weaver; cinematographer: Victor Milner; editor: Otho Lovering; cast: Clara Bow (Stella Ames), Fredric March (Professor Gil Gilmore), Jack Oakie (Al), Joyce Compton (Eva), Marceline Day (Faith Morgan), Shirley O’Hara (Helen Owens); Runtime: 76; Paramount Pictures; 1929)

“It was a frivolous vehicle for the very appealing ‘good time girl’ Clara.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A zesty college film that is trashy fun, with the trash part being very mild and the wild party being rather tame. Despite its limitations, this film is a curious curio; it is interesting to watch Clara Bow, the “It” girl. She’s a superstar from the silents who makes her entrance into talkies with this film. Also the longtime editor for Paramount Pictures, Dorothy Arzner, will be given the opportunity to direct that studio’s first talkie. Arzner had a long film career — continuing until 1943; but, even though she was trusted by the studio to be one of its feature directors, this did not break ground for other women to follow her footsteps so easily. In this film Arzner shows how inventive she can be as a director, when Clara was having trouble handling the regular placement of the mic Arzner put it on a fishing pole, this later on became the boom mic.

The film opens with Clara on her way to the all-girl’s Winston College by train and by accident she stumbles into the sleeping berth of the handsome new anthropology professor, Fredric March. The professor gives the impression he’s a no-nonsense scholar; but, when he is seen on campus all Clara’s girlfriends register to take the course, enthralled with his mustache, tweed suit, and masculine good looks. Clara is a party girl and finds college to be a lark; she is the most popular girl on campus and stays with girls who are equally tuned into just having fun and doing as little work as possible. She is not interested in March’s course, but has hopes that he will make a pass at her. Instead, he treats her curtly, not amused by her lack of work, lecturing her in class about her poor work habits.

Trouble comes the girls’ way, when Clara and three other girlfriends sneak off campus to go to a roadside bar. In the bar, the girls who are dressed as sluts are harassed by a few drunken men. When the girls resist their advances, the men try to kidnap them but they all escape except for Clara. March, who was taking a hike through the woods, is alerted by the girls of what happened and chases after Clara and stops the men in the woods from attacking her. But they decide to keep this quiet, as he is fearful that he will be fired and she will be expelled because of the off campus incident. He also kisses her, showing for the first time how he really feels.

Joyce Compton is the girl they love to hate. She is a snitch and since she is not endowed with too much brains, she uses her ratlike skills to get ahead. Snooping out her window, she sees March walking with Clara and tries to see if she can get something on the professor. She will later on find Clara’s shoe buckle under the prof’s window and use that as a blackmail bribe to pass the course. March’s rationalization is if I have to pass her I’ll pass all the other idiots in the class, as his main concern is that his course will now become known as an easy one.

The gang that waylaid Clara, gets revenge on March by shooting him in the shoulder. He, fearful of a scandal, tells the authorities that he was robbed; and, he takes some time off to recover from his wound.

At the so-called wild party Jack Oakie, who looks as if he is old enough to be the girl’s father, plays a good time frat boy on the prowl for girls. The one straight girl who is serious about her studies, Shirley O’Hara, falls for a college guy and spends the night alone with him on the beach. She is so thrilled with this experience, that she writes a love letter. But the letter is found and handed over to the dean (Day), who threatens to withhold a scholarship she is a cinch to get. If she doesn’t get the award, she won’t be able to afford to stay in school. When Clara hears about this, she convinces the dean that it was her letter and she accepts the punishment of expulsion. March, in his on-again and off-again romance with Clara, tells her he is quitting and that they will be going together on an expedition to Malaysia. March’s attitude about the college is summed up with this rejoinder to Clara: “No more morons, but plenty of savages.”

This film can’t be taken seriously, as its moral tone is questionable, its depiction of college life absurd, and its characterizations are all trivialized. But the film was snappy. It was a frivolous vehicle for the very appealing ‘good time girl’ Clara, who comes through with a heart of sweetness; while March shows he is more serious about the jungle than the university.

The Wild Party Poster

REVIEWED ON 8/29/2000 GRADE: C    https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/