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The Sport Parade

The Sport Parade(1932)

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teaser The Sport Parade (1932)

Sandy Brown (Joel McCrea) and Johnny Baker (William Gargan) are Dartmouth sports stars and towel-slapping best pals, whether on the gridiron or in the locker room in the Pre-Code buddy film The Sport Parade (1932). But it is after their victories on various sports fields that the best pals encounter their greatest challenge yet: a woman.

Post graduation Johnny becomes a newspaper sports editor. Against his friend's advice, Sandy teams up with a hard-drinking, fast talking sports promoter, 'Shifty' Morrison (Walter Catlett), who steers him into the corrupt world of professional sports where fights are fixed for profit. Co-writer Corey Ford claimed he knew absolutely nothing about professional wrestling, though that ignorance did not keep him from depicting that sport in a less than favorable light in The Sport Parade.

While Sandy struggles with corruption, Johnny loses his heart to pretty blonde newspaper illustrator Irene Stewart (Marian Marsh). When Johnny rescues Sandy from unemployment by hiring him on as a sports reporter, it is Sandy, not Johnny who Irene falls for, creating an ugly rift between the men.

Harvard alum, one time theater critic, Harvard Lampoon editor, Vanity Fair managing editor, a contemporary of Dorothy Parker and fellow member of the Algonquin Round Table, comedian and grandfather of Jaws author Peter Benchley, Robert Benchley also appears in The Sport Parade. Benchley delivers several hilarious turns as a bumbling radio sports announcer who follows Brown and Baker through their various sports incarnations (along with drunken newspaper photographer Dizzy played by former vaudevillian Richard 'Skeets' Gallagher) and can't keep his teams straight or his foot out of his mouth. Director Dudley Murphy (The Emperor Jones, 1933) came with his own Harvard pedigree of sorts: his father was the head of the art department at the same Ivy League university that matriculated Benchley.

Part of the unique charm of The Sport Parade is undoubtedly due to the thick-as-thieves match up of Brown and Baker, friskily cavorting in the post-game showers or cheekily wrestling in the locker room. Throughout the film, Johnny refers to Sandy as 'handsome' and admiringly lauds him for his finesse with the ladies. When his pal encounters financial trouble, he helps him land a job at his own newspaper and even buys back the gold football Sandy has hawked for quick cash at the pawn shop. Johnny and Sandy are an unusually tight-knit screen couple whose intimacy - especially in that nude locker room tomfoolery - might raise eyebrows from today's audiences.

A 30-year veteran of leading man roles in Westerns and many Preston Sturges comedies, Joel McCrea was an actor known for both his modesty when it came to acknowledging his own acting talent and for his low-key sexual charisma. A notable leading man, McCrea held his own even beside such alluring actresses as Veronica Lake in the Sturges classic, Sullivan's Travels (1941) and Dolores del Rio in King Vidor's 1932 Bird of Paradise. But Hollywood was never oblivious to McCrea's own sexual charms, exposed in several pre-Code films including The Sport Parade where his 6' 3" shirtless torso is ogled by the camera on numerous occasions.

Whether wearing tight white wrestling briefs that leave little to the imagination or getting a pre-bout rubdown of his oiled flesh, McCrea's attractiveness is exposed in a surprising array of hyper-masculine settings and is a centerpiece of director Dudley Murphy's film.

Producer: David O. Selznick
Director: Dudley Murphy
Screenplay: Corey Ford, Francis M. Cockrell, Jerry Horwin
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Film Editing: Jack Kitchin
Art Direction: Carroll Clark
Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Joel McCrea (Sandy Brown), Marian Marsh (Irene Stewart), William Gargan (Johnny Baker), Robert Benchley (Radio Announcer), Walter Catlett (Shifty Morrison), Richard Gallagher (Dizzy).

by Felicia Feaster

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