Does anyone know how movies get made?
As much as I love film, I don’t actually know how screenwriters, producers, and directors all come together to work on an idea, and how the idea becomes a finished film.
Can anyone help me? Because I have, as Bertie Wooster would say, a corking good idea!
Almost a year ago I posted about The Wild Party, a 1929 film starring Clara Bow and Fredric March. She plays Stella, a college junior or senior who doesn’t really care about her studies and is just out to have a good time. He plays Gil, a young anthropology professor at an all-women’s college who takes his career very seriously. They meet briefly on a train by chance, without knowing that she’s to be his student and he her professor—or that they’re going to fall in love. (Yeah, the student-professor thing is a bit sketch, but she’s of-age and he’s not that old, so it’s pretty much as least-sketchy as such a relationship can get.) The original movie is cute in some places, cheesy in others, thoughtful in still others, and has the germs of some very interesting ideas.
. . .
I want to see this movie remade. Still set in the 1920s, but with modern filmmaking techniques.
The idea came when I was having lunch a few weeks ago with Bethany, my fellow Fredric March fan. I told her how I want to see all my favorite FM movies remade with Tom Hiddleston playing the roles that FM had. I was thinking more of Death Takes a Holiday and Jekyll and Hyde, but we got around to talking about The Wild Party. We decided that a remake could do well in this day and age, because the plot is interesting, particularly if you include a lot of social commentary. Many of the issues that the original movie hints at are still prevalent in higher education today. Good writers could draw those issues out and give them more of an impact.
One theme in the original movie is the newly found independence of college students. This theme, I think, could help a modern audience connect with this movie. Things haven’t changed too much in 90 years—both in the 1920s and the 2010s, many college students are not in school to study, but to get drunk on their newfound independence and cheap liquor, thinking themselves free even as they become imprisoned by their thoughtlessness. In one of The Wild Party‘s more profound moments, Professor Gil—walking Stella back to her dorm after having pulled her out of a near-kidnapping situation—lectures her about how all her time-wasting at the expense of her studies is disrespectful of the women who came before her. The women who built her college, he tells her, worked and sacrificed and endured mockery so that girls like Stella could have more options and opportunities than they did.
. . .
This doesn’t change her immediately, but it gets her thinking. In fact, she rebels against the uncomfortable truth by further partying before it really hits home. In the original movie, her best friend—the school’s top student—is at risk of losing a scholarship and even expulsion because word gets out that she’s secretly dating a guy from the men’s college nearby, which is verboten. Stella takes the blame and leaves college, sure that she’s “no good.” Gil, disgusted with how things have turned out, quits the college in protest and asks her to join an anthropological expedition he’s been invited to.
The whole no dating/curfew/expulsion part could draw in the oh-so-popular pastime of mocking the “puritanism” of America’s past. And yet, the original movie is not as puritanical as people who aren’t familiar with pre-code Hollywood might expect. The character of Stella is shown getting into various scrapes and compromising situations because of her “wild,” single-minded pursuit of fun and excitement, but even though she experiences consequences, she’s not vilified She’s a likable, winning, vibrant character, and a good screenwriter could really bring out her complexities and give her even more depth.
“Who would play Clara Bow’s character?” Bethany asked me.
We thought it over, looked at each other, and said, “Emma Stone.”
And in that moment, I knew that I wanted nothing more in this life than to see this movie (re)made.
Gil is actually less interesting as a character in the original, and seems to be little more than a foil for Stella’s liveliness. (His creepy moustache doesn’t help, and we won’t make Tom Hiddleston have one of those.) But again, with a little better writing and some more screen time, he could also become a layered, compelling character. Maybe he takes the teaching job because he’s afraid to go after something that his heart is really in, and by getting to know Stella, she inspires him to take risks. And thus they become not just contrasts but complements to each other. Also, I think the remake should make him a history professor instead of an anthropology professor, because I’m biased like that.
And because it’s the 1920s, at the end of the movie, instead of his going off on an anthropology expedition in the jungle, he could get invited to an archaeological expedition in Egypt. After all, in 1922 an Englishman discovered the tomb of a guy you may have heard of.
People love costume dramas, and people love the 1920s. The latest Great Gatsby is widely anticipated, Chicago was a huge hit, and people love Midnight in Paris (even though that’s not all in the 1920s). Remade these days, with the filmmaking technology available and society being what it is, The Wild Party could really get into the scandal of 1920s party life, the lushness and style of the period, have a little fun at the expense of early-20th-century morality, and also better emphasize the “girl power” angle. Also, it wasn’t in the original, but I would totally be in favor of the cops raiding one of those college parties and arresting some bootleggers.
Plus, I’m for any movie that gets Tom Hiddleston in a 1920s style suit (but not the Ramen-noodle 1920s hair, dear god I beg). And Emma Stone as a flapper? Can you imagine?? So cute, my head just might explode. (Why yes, I have an enormous girl-crush on her.)
And if you want to check out the original, it’s currently on the Internet Archive. A note: this is a very, very early talkie, and the sound quality is terrible. Actually, so is the video quality. But it’s a fascinating piece.
Someone, please, make this movie. For me. For all of us!