Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Sport Parade


















The 1932 movie The Sport Parade climaxes during a pro wrestling match, just like I do.

Released before the Hays Code prohibited such things, it features rude double entendres, a glimpse of bare male buttocks (in a shower room scene near the beginning), a suggestive dance act at a Harlem night club, and a couple of (literally) limp-wristed homosexuals at ringside during the first of two complete wrasslin' matches in the sports drama.

Both matches porn me up as few 21st-century matches do. Each runs for nearly as long as a typical match on TV. That's pretty good, considering the entire film runs for just 64 minutes. (The photos above are taken only from the match at the end of the movie.) It seems to me that a good wrestling movie should be like a musical, only with wrestling matches replacing songs and dances. Now that would be entertainment!

Handsome Joel McCrea as Sandy Brown and William Gargan as his best friend Johnny Baker play star athletes at Dartmouth, where they are known as Baker-Brown, a smooth and unbeatable team in every collegiate sport, including wrestling (the one non-team sport the two participate in, apparently, and the one where Sandy is superior to Johnny).

So close are these two athletes that early in the film somebody cracks that they are like Romeo and Juliet. After graduation, Sandy signs on to a get-rich-quick scheme that separates him from Johnny, who entertained dreams of the two of them at adjoining desks as sports reporters one day.

Sandy gets fleeced by his manager and ends up with nothing. Johnny, however, finds work as a solitary sportswriter and quickly falls for a pretty illustrator (Marian Marsh as Irene) who works for the same newspaper.

Desperate for cash, Sandy pawns a gold football charm (identical to one held by Johnny) for ten dollars. Then, by accident, the two run into each other at a sporting event. Johnny spies the pawn ticket and realizes his old pal is in financial trouble, so he offers him work co-writing his-and-his columns about the sports world.

Here's where the complication sets in. Sandy falls for Johnny's girl unaware that Johnny likes her, and she falls for him too.

He takes her on a working date to a wrestling show (during which the aforementioned nelly stereotypes walk out, tired of watching "brutes"). After the show he runs into his old manager, who asks whether he might be interested in wrestling as a pro. Sandy declines, stating his opinion that the contests are not "on the level."

Later when he discovers that Johnny is in love with Irene too, he breaks up with her, not wanting to hurt his best friend, especially since Johnny had just pulled him out of the gutter. But while they are kissing goodbye, Johnny walks in on them. The two former buddies fight. Sandy wins, but leaves the newspaper gig and the girl to his old pal. 

To make ends meet, Sandy signs back on with his old manager and starts wrestling. Soon enough he is in line for a shot at the belt, but a bitter Johnny ridicules both him and the so-called "sport" in his newspaper column.

Irene has nothing to do with Johnny now because of the scuffle with Sandy and, more importantly, because she now realizes her heart belongs to Sandy. Plus there's the "bitter" thing, which makes Johnny a bit of a drag during this part of the movie.

Earlier, Johnny secretly redeemed the gold football charm Sandy had pawned, intending to give it back to him but he was prevented by, as he calls it, "outside interference" (i.e. Irene cockblocked him). In an act of passive aggression if I've ever seen one, he gives the charm to Irene to pass on to Sandy.

To prove her faith in her one true love, Irene makes an extraordinary wager with Johnny, telling him that if Sandy throws his championship shot (as Johnny predicts he will) she'll marry Johnny, whom she doesn't love. (Talk about passive aggressive.)

As it turns out, the crooked sports manager has indeed agreed to have Sandy lay down for the champion, Fritz Muller (played by former Latvian wrestling champion Ivan Linow). Sandy refuses to roll over for the champ, despite the promise of "big bucks." He vows to do his best to beat the champion in the ring ... fair and square, and for real.

Predictably he wins the long, sweaty, and action-packed match (nearly as expertly shot and edited as Scorsese's boxing scenes in Raging Bull), but in an interesting twist on the cliche, it's Johnny's shouts of encouragement (not Irene's) that ultimately spur Sandy to beat his crooked and sadistic opponent and win the championship.

Utilizing some contact moves from football, Sandy knocks Muller out of the ring for the 20 count, Johnny rushes to the ring and the old friends reunite, trading playful punches to the shoulder.

The film then cuts away to a closeup of the ringside commentator, who with considerable disgust reports that a girl is entering the ring too, and Sandy is kissing her. Fade to black. The End. (Funny that this kiss should happen off camera and be described for us by an obviously disapproving intermediary.) 

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