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Gabriel de Gravone
The idle son of a rich businessman joins the army when the U.S.A. enters World War One. He is sent to France, where he becomes friends with two working-class soldiers. He also falls in love with a Frenchwoman, but has to leave her to move to the frontline.Written by
Philip Apps <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Is the highest grossing silent film of all time, making $22 million during its worldwide release See more »
The three future recruits live in New York City (one works construction on a skyscraper, another works a bar in the Bowery), but during the recruitment parade, there are shots of wide avenues lined with low buildings and palm trees - clearly shots of 1920s Los Angeles. See more »
THE BIG PARADE (1925) is set in the United States in 1917. It tells the story of Jim Apperson (John Gilbert), an idle young rich man who enlists to fight in World War I. He finds friendship and love during his time in France, but is soon plunged into the chaos and horror of war. Directed by King Vidor.
SCRIPT: THE BIG PARADE is often acclaimed as the first Hollywood movie to realistically portray war. This is very accurate. The lead character, Jim, is reluctant to enlist but does so due to peer pressure and finding himself caught up in the patriotic fervor of the moment. Along the way, his character is changed forever by what he experiences. On my first viewing, I did feel that it took a while to get to the war but the first hour of the movie really lays the groundwork for the great changes to come. Jim finds friendship and romance along the way, and we get to see him bond with the characters (even though he did seem to rather conveniently and inexplicably forget about his fiancée back home – that part could have been handled better IMHO.) The movie shows abundant humor, warmth, and humanity. This causes the shift to the war to have more dramatic impact. THE BIG PARADE does not glamorize war, but shows it for what it really is – a brutal and senseless waste of life. However, even then it has time for humor, and shows realistic character development. We see the toll the war takes on Jim, but the film does end on a hopeful note. SCORE: 9/10
ACTING: John Gilbert became a star after this movie, and it's easy to see why. His performance still holds up very well today – understated, realistic, and yet very charismatic. He displays a great emotional range that never seems exaggerated. Renee Adoree contributes a moving performance as his love Melisande – she conveys the character's strong will, and the depth of her love for Jim as he is taken away is very evident in this pivotal scene. The rapport between her and Gilbert is very good. Tom O'Brien contributes good support as Jim's buddy Bull. I wasn't a big fan of Karl Dane's performance as the tobacco-chewing hayseed Slim; it seemed a little broad to me, but just a little, not nearly as overdone as, say, the characters in DW Griffith's WAY DOWN EAST. Karl Dane gets to display more depth and determination during the war scenes. Claire McDowell is excellent as Jim's mother, and the relationship between her and Gilbert is moving and believable. Quite well done overall. SCORE: 9/10
CINEMATOGRAPHY/PRODUCTION: King Vidor showed his considerable directorial talent with this film. The cinematography and editing are nothing less than first rate. There are quite a few powerful sequences here – Melisande pursuing Jim as he is taken to the front; the soldiers' doomed march into the forest, with tracking shots and polished editing; the climactic battle at night Vidor shows a great command of his use of light and shadow during the battle scene. You really do feel the impact of the battle. The editing is smoothly done throughout, and this movie helped set the standard for war movies to follow. SCORE: 10/10
SUMMARY: THE BIG PARADE is a pivotal moment in cinema, for daring to show the reality of war, rather than an idealized or propagandistic point of view. It has warmth, humor, and camaraderie, as well as a realistic viewpoint of war's horror and senselessness. The performances, cinematography, and production are first rate. Though there are minor flaws, the movie as a whole stands as a masterpiece. SCORE: 9/10
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