Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Sport Parade

The fourth night of Joel McCrea's turn as TCM Star of the Month concludes at 8:15 AM tomorrow morning with The Sport Parade. Joel McCrea stars as Sandy, who is just finishing up his senior year at Dartmouth together with best friend Johnny (William Gargan). The two were both stars on the football team back in the days when college football was king and the game was such that relatively small white guys like them could succeed. (McCrea was certainly fit, but not football fit.) Being a college football star gives one connections, and Johnny uses them to go into journalism in New York. Sandy, however, likes football, and decides that he's going to become a professional football player.

Back in those days, of course, you couldn't make a living solely as a professional football player. You had to work in the off-season, and professional football wasn't particularly prestigious, either. So Sandy isn't able to make much of a success at pro football, and has to take a job with Johnny. This causes problems when both of them fall for Irene (Marian Marsh). Sandy goes back into the world of sports.

Eventually, to make ends meet, Sandy takes up professional wrestling. This is hard to believe, since all the photos I've seen of old-time professional wrestlers showed them to be, if not as big as today, still much bigger and burlier than McCrea. He's going to get himself killed. Well, except that he's not, because professional wrestling is more or less fake, with heavy emphasis on the "more". The climax comes when Irene bets Johnny that Sandy will win the big match: if Sandy loses the fight, Irene will marry Johnny. Sandy, however, has already agreed to throw the match....

Oh dear is the plot silly. It seems as if the only point to the whole thing is to get Joel McCrea in a series of scenes where he's not wearing much in the way of clothing, something I suppose the women (and gay men) of the day would have liked. The "two men in love with the same girl" plot device must have been old even then, and Joel McCrea just isn't believable in this role. Andy Devine had played football in college, as did John Wayne; maybe they could have done a part like this. Devine certainly could have played the wrestler part here too.

The Sport Parade is, I think, more interesting for its look at life and the world of sports back in the 1930s (six-day bicycle races?) than it is for the story. Oh, and if you like men, it's interesting for McCrea's body too, I suppose. It's not on DVD, so you're going to have to catch it on TCM.

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