The Wet Parade

Part melodrama, part gangster film, and part historical documentary, The Wet Parade, based on an Upton Sinclair novel published the previous year, is set at a decisive historical moment: the months before the election of Roosevelt decided the repeal of Prohibition. Lewis Stone plays a pre-Prohibition Southern paterfamilias whose drinking career ends in suicide. Walter Huston plays a Northern hotel-keeper during Prohibition; he kills his wife when she denies him his bootleg liquor. Stone's daughter (Dorothy Jordan) and Huston's son (Robert Young) fall in love in a shared militant abstinence. Young takes on the role of Prohibition agent and, together with veteran Jimmy Durante (whose cynicism is strongest on the subject of his own work) they take on The Mob.
“Grafted onto this old-fashioned plot is a quasi-documentary presentation of the politics of alcohol and the mechanics of a legally dry society...a presentation using techniques that might be seen as foreshadowing the ‘living newspaper' plays of the late 1930s.
“Flavoring this whole eclectic stew is a profoundly ambivalent viewpoint on alcohol as a political issue. Partly this reflects the splintering of the temperance forces in 1932.... What is most striking about The Wet Parade to the modern viewer, with a consciousness formed by the alcoholism era (in which alcoholism is seen as a disease and a matter of private anguish), is the degree to which in the movie alcohol is a political matter, a public rather than private problem. The Wet Parade catches for us the last moment in U.S. history when alcohol was a transcendent political matter, the stuff of Presidential commissions and party platforms. Its ambivalence is a poignant reflection of its historical location, at a point of inflection between two frames of cultural consciousness.” --Robin Room

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