Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA, 1975. American International Pictures, Merchant Ivory Productions, The Wild Party Production Company. Screenplay by Walter Marks, based on the narrative poem by Joseph Moncure March. Cinematography by Walter Lassally. Produced by Ismail Merchant. Music by Walter Marks. Production Design by David Nichols. Costume Design by Ron Talsky. Film Editing by Kent McKinney.
It’s the end of an era as silent films are being pushed out and sound films, or ‘talkies’, are the new thing. This means that silent stars everywhere are seeing their careers crash and burn, none more so than Jolly Grimm (James Coco, based not so subtly on the career of Fatty Arbuckle), whose pictures have been flops for years and whose career shows no sign of new life. Having recently completed a self-financed silent epic of comedy and pathos, Grimm and his beautiful, supportive wife (Raquel Welch) are throwing a giant party to premiere the film and get his name back in lights, and this entertaining, touching, and often anguished drama by the team of Merchant Ivory spends the film’s running time watching it happen. As the party progresses, Hollywood’s luminaries indulge in what is most fun about making it in movies (singing and dancing wherever you look) and what is most frightening (make one mistake and your life is over). Perry King also stars as a gorgeous matinee idol who steals Welch away from her quasi-abusive relationship with his searing good looks, and Royal Dano is terrific as the former stunt man turned do-it-all man for Coco. It’s a sad but memorable tale, intelligently written by Walter Marks from the poem by Joseph Moncure March (with rhyming-couplet narration) and spiced up by some very bouncy musical numbers (also written by Marks). Welch is a show-stopper, magnificent as both actress and dancer.