The Wild Party (1976)

R | 90 mins | Drama, Musical | 21 January 1976

Director:

James Ivory

Writer:

Walter Marks

Producer:

Ismail Merchant

Cinematographer:

Walter Lassally

Editor:

Kent McKinney

Production Designer:

David Nichols

Production Company:

Merchant Ivory Productions
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following title card: "Hollywood, 1929. The morning after the party."
       In the long narrative poem on which the film is based, the comedian is named “Burr” and the party takes place in Greenwich Village, New York City and not in Hollywood, CA.
       A 16 Apr 1974 DV article stated that producer Edgar Lansbury wanted to cast actress Deborah St. Darr in the “Queenie” role, but she was unavailable due to her commitment to the 1974 Harold Prince Broadway revival of Candide.
       According to a 27 May 1974 Box news item, The Wild Party marked the theatrical feature film debut of David Dukes.
       The 16 Apr 1974 DV reported that principal photography was to begin 29 Apr 1974 with a five to six week shooting schedule. However, a 29 Apr 1974 HR stated shooting was scheduled to begin 6 May 1974 with a $750 thousand budget. Principal photography was completed in Jun 1974 according to a 21 Jun 1974 HR news item.
       A 16 Jun 1974 LAT article reported that the film was shot at the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA. Producer Ismail Merchant read an article in Life magazine stating that the 1875 hotel was about to undergo a $2 million renovation and decided to shoot the whole film on the premises.
       Although The Wild Party is not based on silent screen star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s life, in a 16 Oct 1981 NYT article, James Coco stated that to prepare for his role as “Jolly Grimm” he researched Arbuckle. ... More Less

The film begins with the following title card: "Hollywood, 1929. The morning after the party."
       In the long narrative poem on which the film is based, the comedian is named “Burr” and the party takes place in Greenwich Village, New York City and not in Hollywood, CA.
       A 16 Apr 1974 DV article stated that producer Edgar Lansbury wanted to cast actress Deborah St. Darr in the “Queenie” role, but she was unavailable due to her commitment to the 1974 Harold Prince Broadway revival of Candide.
       According to a 27 May 1974 Box news item, The Wild Party marked the theatrical feature film debut of David Dukes.
       The 16 Apr 1974 DV reported that principal photography was to begin 29 Apr 1974 with a five to six week shooting schedule. However, a 29 Apr 1974 HR stated shooting was scheduled to begin 6 May 1974 with a $750 thousand budget. Principal photography was completed in Jun 1974 according to a 21 Jun 1974 HR news item.
       A 16 Jun 1974 LAT article reported that the film was shot at the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA. Producer Ismail Merchant read an article in Life magazine stating that the 1875 hotel was about to undergo a $2 million renovation and decided to shoot the whole film on the premises.
       Although The Wild Party is not based on silent screen star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s life, in a 16 Oct 1981 NYT article, James Coco stated that to prepare for his role as “Jolly Grimm” he researched Arbuckle.
       A 12 Jan 1977 Var news item reported that American International Pictures (AIP) had cut director James Ivory’s one hundred minute version to ninety minutes. Ivory stated the new version was “butchered, recut and released.” A piece in the 26 Aug 1976 LAT claimed that sex scenes Ivory had removed were installed and flashbacks and flash forwards were added. Also, AIP edited the film to soften the “Jolly Grimm,” character.
       A 16 Oct 1975 DV news item stated that due to scheduling errors, The Wild Party was broadcast on Home Box Office Inc. (HBO) before it opened theatrically in New York City. Originally, the film was scheduled for a Sep 1975 New York release, but was delayed to early Nov. However, a deal to broadcast the film on HBO had already been made and the cable channel’s viewing schedule was already set when theatrical release was delayed. The film did not premiere in New York City until 14 Oct 1981 according to the NYT review of the same date. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
27 May 1974.
---
Box Office
21 Apr 1975
p. 4773.
Daily Variety
16 Apr 1974
p. 1, 8.
Daily Variety
16 Oct 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1974.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
21 Jan 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Jun 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Aug 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Jan 1976
p. 1, 11.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
23 Jun 1975
p. 8.
New York Times
14 Oct 1981.
---
New York Times
16 Oct 1981.
---
Time
18 Aug 1975
p. 61.
Variety
16 Apr 1974.
---
Variety
18 Jun 1975
p. 16.
Variety
12 Jan 1977.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Samuel Z. Arkoff Presents
An Edgar Lansbury/Joseph Beruh Production
A Merchant Ivory Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Key grip
Best boy
Gaffer
Stills
Cam by
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst to the art dir
Asst to the art dir
Asst to the art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set artist
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost for James Coco, Perry King and David Dukes
Cost for Jennifer Lee, Dena Dietrich and Tiffany B
Jewels by
Asst to Ron Talsky
MUSIC
Mus supv and scoring
Mus & lyrics
Mus for Nadine's dance comp by
Mus consultants
SOUND
Sd ed
Re-rec eng
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles des by
Title poster art by
MAKEUP
Make-up
PRODUCTION MISC
Post prod supv
Mus seq staged by
Casting
Asst to the dir
Asst to the dir
Asst to the prod mgr
Scr supv
Prod secy
Prod auditor
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the narrative poem The Wild Party by Joseph Moncure March (Chicago, 1928).
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 January 1976
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 21 January 1976
Production Date:
6 May--June 1974 in Riverside, CA
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Movielab
Duration(in mins):
90
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

James Morrison, a poet, lies in a hospital bed with a bandaged throat while writing his account of the “wild party” in verse. One hot Saturday morning, Carlo “Charlie” Grimaldi, a.k.a. “Jolly Grim”, a silent screen comedy star, drinks his morning coffee while fretting about premiering his new film, Brother Jasper, at a party he is giving that night. He has not made a film in five years and knows the studios no longer want silent films. His mistress, Queenie, asks him to bring her a cup in bed. He refuses, and when Queenie walks to the table, he hurls his hot coffee at her. Shrugging it off, Queenie seductively changes into a slip and stockings. Aroused, Charlie throws her on the bed, but she goes limp. Charlie calls her a slut and backhands her. Queenie threatens to hit him with a marble clock and Charlie apologizes. He then pretends to be a waiter and coaxes Queenie to the table. Once seated she hands him list of people attending their party. Charlie is enraged to see how few top studio executives are coming, but Queenie reminds him that Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford are also throwing a party that night. Downstairs, the maid tells Tex, Charlie’s driver and bodyguard, to drive to Pasadena, California, to pick up twenty cases of bootleg gin. As the day progresses, Queenie cajoles and wheedles people into attending the screening. Her friend Kate telephones to say she is bringing Dale Sword, a new matinee idol. When ... +


James Morrison, a poet, lies in a hospital bed with a bandaged throat while writing his account of the “wild party” in verse. One hot Saturday morning, Carlo “Charlie” Grimaldi, a.k.a. “Jolly Grim”, a silent screen comedy star, drinks his morning coffee while fretting about premiering his new film, Brother Jasper, at a party he is giving that night. He has not made a film in five years and knows the studios no longer want silent films. His mistress, Queenie, asks him to bring her a cup in bed. He refuses, and when Queenie walks to the table, he hurls his hot coffee at her. Shrugging it off, Queenie seductively changes into a slip and stockings. Aroused, Charlie throws her on the bed, but she goes limp. Charlie calls her a slut and backhands her. Queenie threatens to hit him with a marble clock and Charlie apologizes. He then pretends to be a waiter and coaxes Queenie to the table. Once seated she hands him list of people attending their party. Charlie is enraged to see how few top studio executives are coming, but Queenie reminds him that Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford are also throwing a party that night. Downstairs, the maid tells Tex, Charlie’s driver and bodyguard, to drive to Pasadena, California, to pick up twenty cases of bootleg gin. As the day progresses, Queenie cajoles and wheedles people into attending the screening. Her friend Kate telephones to say she is bringing Dale Sword, a new matinee idol. When James Morrison drops by, he notices Queenie’s cheek is bruised and begs her to leave Charlie. She defends the comedian, insisting he only hit her because he was stressed and that he is the only man that ever cared about her opinions. Later, when Charlie screens the film for James Morrison, the poet protests that his name should not be in the credits as “writer” as he only wrote the title cards, but Charlie insists on helping young talent. However, when James criticizes a cannibal scene, Charlie erupts and tells him to get out. Later, as Tex drives him home, Charlie confesses his anxiety about both the premier, then confides that after the movie is a success he plans to propose to Queenie. At home, Charlie gets a call from Kreutzer, the head of Mammoth Studios, offering regrets that he will not be attending. Charlie promises to supply two sexy redheads if Kreutzer changes his mind. As the guests arrive, Charlie announces he is not drinking. One of the first arrivals is Madam True, a celluloid sweetheart that is secretly a lesbian. She is followed by Jackie, a dancer of mixed race, who passes out marijuana cigarettes. With him is Bertha, his former dance partner, who now works for him as a prostitute. Right behind them is Eddy, a stunt man with a temper and his date, Grace Jones. At the piano sits Oscar and Phil D'Armano, a pair of incestuous brothers singing in falsetto. Soon the mansion is packed with people seeking illegal booze and excitement. After Charlie and Queenie make a grand entrance, they greet Mark and Sam, two studio heads, but quickly leave them when major studio executive A. J. Murchison, and his wife, Francine, arrive. When Murchison is told the film is over eighty minutes, he tells Charlie to put it on immediately as he has only one hour to spare. As Charlie orders everyone into the projection room, Kate arrives with Dale Sword. Throughout the screening Dale cannot take his eyes off Queenie. Charlie slips out of the room and into the courtyard, where he downs two shots of whiskey. Nadine Jones, Grace’s teenage sister, arrives late and asks if she can dance to entertain the guests. Charlie sends her inside to get something to eat when Kreutzer of Mammoth arrives. Charlie ushers him in to see the last scene, but Kreutzer is unimpressed. Also unimpressed, Murchison leaves telling Charlie that his company is only interested in talking films. Queenie tries to console Charlie, but he tells her to just shut up and look pretty. He then finds Kreutzer, who also wants a talking picture, but is willing to talk about taking the film if Charlie brings him the redheads he was promised. Charlie finds two redheaded wanna-be starlets and sends them to Kreutzer. Meanwhile, the liquor flows and the party begins to swing. Jack begs Queenie to perform and she improvises a song and dance routine to “Singapore Sally.” When it is finished, Dale escorts her into the garden, where they dance before wandering off into the dark. Inside, Kreutzer insists people only want gangster films. Although the movie is set in 1785, Charlie promises to add a bank robbery scene. Charlie acts out the scene to big laughs from his guests, but Kreutzer passes on picking up distribution rights to the film. Out at the pool house, Queenie refuses to kiss Dale. When he apologizes for being a “masher,” she tells him she thinks he is nice. They go back inside and join the other guests in dancing the “Hoover Drag.” Kate cuts in to remind Dale they are expected at Mary Pickford’s party, but when Queenie refuses to come with them, Dale prefers to stay. Kate “accidentally” spills her drink on Dale and as Queenie towels the spill, Charlie arrives and yanks her away. He threatens to hurt her if she keeps messing around with Dale, but she tells him to go to hell. Dale grabs Charlie as James and Tex step between the two men. When Dale walks away with Queenie, Charlie yells that the actor is just a cheap imitation of Valentino. The crowd goes quiet as Charlie shouts that he does not need Queenie or anyone else to make a comeback. But he begins to cry and calls for Queenie. Nadine Grace, dressed in a fairy costume, appears and dances for him. Her unspoiled youth moves Charlie to tears. The party soon gets out of control as drunken, half-dressed guests chase each other through the halls. Charlie leads Nadine in search of Queenie, but every door he opens reveals an orgy. Nadine opens one door, sees her sister engaging in sex, and breaks into tears. Charlie tries to soothe her by taking her to the kitchen for cake. There, he tells the girl how much she reminds him of Queenie. Nadine informs him that her sister Grace said she should be nice to him so he will put her in one of his films and then tells him he can kiss her. Charlie does, just as Eddy and Grace arrive. Eddy starts strangling Charlie, but Queenie and Dale appear, and Dale punches Eddy out cold. Grace attacks Dale before passing out. James arrives to find Queenie nursing Dale, while Charlie moans on the floor. When Charlie gets up, he calls Queenie a slut and threatens to get even with Dale. Queenie bursts into tears before leading Dale upstairs to have sex. A drunken Charlie staggers over the bodies of his inebriated guests until he finds Kate who tells him his breakup with Queenie was bound to happen as he is too old for her. Mark and Sam begin singing for Dale to come to the Pickford party with them, but Charlie yells they still have not talked a about a deal and he again acts out the robbery scene he is planning. Tex arrives and holds up a staggering Charlie, and when James appears on the stairs, Charlie grabs Tex’s gun and pulls the trigger, accidentally shooting James in the throat. Tex grabs Charlie’s arm, causing him to accidentally shoot both Dale and Queenie dead. Charlie rushes to Queenie and cradles her lifeless body in his arms. Much later, James finishes writing up his account of the incident. When he is through, he writes “The Wild Party” as a title. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.