For Reel

Public Wedding (1937)
March 31, 2016, 5:11 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Nick Grinde
2.5 Stars
Public WeddingA dysfunctional group of carnival works concocts their latest scheme while a roller coaster looms in the background. In order to draw crowds to their whale exhibit, they have the bright idea to stage a public wedding in the creature’s gaping mouth. So begins the series of absurd events that makes up Public Wedding, a thoroughly ridiculous but occasionally appealing comedy that has the historical value of featuring Jane Wyman in her first starring role. Wyman, along with Dick Purcell and Berton Churchill, play the central trio of carnies who follow each of their schemes with an even more implausible one (at one point, they’ll stage a woman’s suicide (Marie Wilson) in order to bring publicity to an aspiring painter played by William Hopper). Had the script given the cast more venomous material to work with, Public Wedding might have been a show-stopping satire that lampooned both the institution of marriage and the world of publicists. As it is, it coasts on the charms of its cast, including the show-stealing Churchill, who gives a W.C. Fields impersonation as a blowhard con artist. Wilson, married to director Nick Grinde at the time of the film’s release, is another standout, bringing a fierce energy to the familiar “ditzy blonde” role. The only performer who can’t carry his weight is Hopper, but fortunately Wyman’s enthusiasm almost makes his scenes bearable.

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