For Reel

The Sport Parade (1932)
August 16, 2012, 7:54 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Dudley Murphy

Director Dudley Murphy’s aggressive visual flares more than make up for what The Sport Parade lacks in story. He uses crowded frames – taking a particular liking to objects in the extreme foreground – and a number of clever match-cuts that intentionally draw attention to themselves. Although there were a few directors (Rouben Mamoulian being a prime example) who pushed the limits of aesthetic stylization in the early years of sound, by-and-large Hollywood’s visuals had regressed from their complexity in late silent pictures such as F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans or King Vidor’s The Crowd. Murphy hadn’t quite figured out how to coalesce his attention-seeking visual sensibilities with a strong sense of narrative by the time of The Sport Parade, but as it is it remains a valuable artifact, far different from the typical RKO production of the time. Its visuals, however, are not the only thing that is of interest historically. A thinly-veiled layer of homoeroticism is present from the first several minutes, in which William Gargan calls Joel McCrea handsome before playfully slapping him on the bum with a towel in a locker room shower. McCrea, who was considered one of Hollywood’s sexiest leading men of the period, is fetishized throughout – he wears very little in several extended scenes, and in a climactic professional wrestling match the camera takes a particular interest in his musculature. Earlier in the picture, two homosexual men leave a similar wrestling match due to their displeasure of the violence, holding hands in a public display of affection as they vacate their seats. Ordinary as the central love triangle may be, The Sport Parade is not only a visual spectacle, but one of the major gay films of the early 1930s.

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