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January 12, 2023

‘The Wild Party’ (1929): The First Talkie of Clara Bow

The Wild Party is a 1929 American pre-Code film directed by Dorothy Arzner and starring Clara Bow and Fredric March. Released by Paramount Pictures.

Bow was unable to get used to the microphones. During her first line, the microphone reportedly exploded, which caused a technical problem at the studio. As Bow was very nervous about the new sound generation system, Arzner tried to comfort her by devising what is reputed to be the first fishpole microphone to allow flexibility of placement. Bow thereby had the freedom to move while filming.

The film is known for being Clara Bow’s talkie debut. A silent film version was released as well, for theaters which did not yet have sound equipment. The film had mixed reviews and Bow’s Brooklyn accent was especially criticized. One critic described her voice as a ‘smooth contralto, vigorous and natural’, while another said that she had a ‘harsh tonal quality that is not very easy on sensitive eardrums’. Variety stated that her voice was ‘good enough’ to survive the transition to sound. Film Daily also stated that there was ‘nothing wrong’ with her ‘hard and metallic’ voice.

Nevertheless, The Wild Party did well at the box office and confirmed Dorothy Arzner’s abilities as a director. With its success, her career reached its high point. Bow’s less appreciative reviews have often been explained by the rushed production.

These vintage photos captured portraits of Clara Bow during the filming of The Wild Party in 1929.


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