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March, Joseph Moncure

Joseph Moncure March wrote his daring, electrically charged poem "The Wild Party" in 1926, and saw it published two years later in a limited edition that became something of a success de scandal that was banned in Boston. The noted writer and editor Louis Untermeyer called "The Wild Party," "Repulsive and fascinating, vicious, vivacious, uncompromising, unashamed and unremittingly powerful." Famously, William S. Burroughs named it the book that "made me want to be a writer."

March, who died in February, 1977 at the age of 78, was a screenwriter and journalist as well as a poet. He began his career in journalism as the first managing editor of The New Yorker.  He quit his New Yorker job in 1926 to work on "The Wild Party," the work for which he is best remembered today. He later became a writer of documentaries for the State Department and a feature writer for the New York Times magazine, where he covered such topics as Hollywood, history and nature.

He followed "The Wild Party" with another narrative verse poem, "The Set-Up," about corruption in professional boxing, told through the story of a washed-up black boxer; both poems were later adapted (only somewhat successfully) for the movies. The Wild Party, starring James Coco and Raquel Welch, was filmed by Merchant-Ivory in 1975 and conflated March's poem with the Fatty Arbuckle scandal. As a screenwriter, March wrote a series of now-forgotten films of the 1930s: And Sudden Death, Hideaway Girl, Her Jungle Love, Flirting with Fate, Woman Doctor, Wagons Westward, and Three Faces West, among them. His most lasting Hollywood legacy, however, was co-writing (with Marshall Neilan) the story from which the 1930 movie Hell's Angels was adapted. The film starred Ben Lyon and Jean Harlow—the embodiment of "The Wild Party's" Queenie.

Long out of print, "The Wild Party" was rescued from cult status in 1994, when Art Spiegelman honored his own long-standing obsession with the poem by illustrating a black-and-white edition released by Random House. March's poem later garnered success on Broadway in the 2000 musical, THE WILD PARTY by Michael John LaChiusa.

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