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Somewhat Forgotten, But Highly Impressive and Imperative 1933 Best Picture Winner.
tfrizzell25 March 2003
Often forgotten, but very excellent 1933 Best Picture Oscar winner that stands up amazingly well after 70 years. "Cavalcade" is the near-epic tale of two British families (one set of aristocrats led by Oscar-nominee Diane Wynyard and Clive Brook and the other a set of servants led by Una O'Connor and Herbert Mundin) and their experiences from New Year's Eve 1899 to the start of 1933. As the film opens, the country is entangled in the bloody Boer War in South Africa. Queen Victoria's death soon follows and naturally the loss hits the entire country very hard. The sinking of the Titanic also effects the richer group as they lose family members on the doomed liner. Of course World War I produces a terrible situation for the two groups' children. The film progresses through the Jazzy 1920s and then we re-visit the couples in the early-1930s as they reflect on eventful, dramatic and tragic years since the start of the century. A new hope seems possible by the end (of course history would continue to be unkind as World War II would soon become a sad reality for the English), but far from certain. Frank Lloyd (Oscar-winning for his direction) crafted a vastly interesting film that is technologically strong for the time period (the Titanic sequence in particular is something to be appreciated) and very intelligent from the start. The editing techniques are revolutionary with impressive fades throughout to show the passing of time and the cinematography still holds up strong even today. One good thing about the Academy Awards is the historical significance it gives to films like "Cavalcade". True the film is not always well-known among movie enthusiasts, but that does not mean that this is not an excellent production and one of the first truly excellent movies that Hollywood would develop for the world. 5 stars out of 5.
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Stylistically Dated But Nonetheless Memorable
gftbiloxi18 April 2005
CAVALCADE is an extremely good example of films made in the first few years following the advent of sound, an era in which actors, directors, writers, and cinematographers struggled to find a new style that could comfortably accommodate the new technology. During this period, many actors and writers were drawn from the stage--only to discover that what seems real and natural in the theatre seems heavily mannered on screen.

This is certainly the case with CAVALCADE. The film presents the story of two London families whose lives intertwine between 1900 and 1933. The film begins with the upperclass Marryot family and their servants, Mr. and Mrs. Bridges, facing the Boer War--and then through a series of montages and montage-like scenes follows the fortunes of the two families as they confront changing codes of manners and social class and various historic events ranging from the sinking of the Titanic to World War I.

From a modern standpoint, the really big problem with the film is the script. CAVALCADE was written for the stage by Noel Coward, who was one of the great comic authors of the 20th Century stage--but the sparkling edge that seems so flawless in his comic works acquires a distastefully "precious" quality when applied to drama. Although the play was a great success in its day, it is seldom revived, and the dialogue of the film version leaves one in little doubt of why: it feels ridiculously artificial, and that quality is emphasized by the "grand manner" of the cast.

That said, the cast--in spite of the dialogue and their stylistically dated performances--is quite good. This is particularly true of the two leading ladies, Diana Wynyard and Una O'Connor (best known for her appearances in THE INVISIBLE MAN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKESTEIN), both of whom have memorable screen presences that linger in mind long after the film ends. The material is also quite interesting and startlingly modern; although it is more covert than such films as ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, CAVALCADE has a decidedly anti-war slant, and the characters in the film worry about where technology (which has produced such horrors as chemical warfare by World War I) will take them in the future.

I enjoyed the film. At the same time, I would be very hesitant to recommend it to any one that was not already interested in films of the early 1930s, for I think most contemporary viewers would have great difficulty adjusting to the tremendous difference in style. The VHS (the film is not yet available on DVD) has some problem with visual elements and a more significant problem with audio elements, but these are not consistent issues. Recommended--but with the warning that if you don't already like pre-code early "talkies" you will likely be disappointed.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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A fascinating period piece
gsimmers20 April 2006
If you want to know what the twentieth century looked like to people in the early thirties, this is the film to watch. Two families - upstairs and downstairs - go through the events of the Boer War, the Edwardian age, the First World War and its aftermath, ending in the "chaos and confusion" of the depression. The film seems to be fairly closely based on the original Drury Lane theatre production (many of the cast are the same). So when Binnie Barnes delivers "Twentieth Century Blues" (excellently) this is presumably how Coward wanted it sung. Noel Coward's clipped dialogue can't always carry the weight of the themes, and the nobility of the upper-class couple gets a bit wearing, but there are fascinating glimpses of a music hall performance and an Edwardian seaside concert party. The film races through thirty eventful years, and one or two of the tragedies are predictable, but the period detail is terrific. The film is well worth catching.
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One of the great films of the 20th century
John_Mclaren23 July 2004
Cavalcade is one of the great films of the 20th century, and was justifiably honoured as "best picture" by the Academy in 1932-33. It is a golden cinematic treasure- waiting to be found anew for those who may know nothing of its existence.

It is dated only for those who have no sense of history or cultural depth. It tells the story of England and western civilisation through the history of two families, the Marryots and Bridges. It is the same technique of intimate narrative history that was successfully used in "Roots" and other family-history sagas.

Noel Coward's highly successful London-set stage play "Cavalcade" was adapted for the big screen with a cry of "A love that suffered and rose triumphant above the crushing events of this modern age! The march of time measured by a mother's heart!" It tells of the struggle of civility against the brutalising effects of war (and in particular the Great War).

It tells the story of Britain's struggle against barbarism in the late 19th and 20th century, and of old fashioned virtues in a world that seemed determined to leave them all behind. The final "march of the heroes of history" is perhaps quasi melodramatic Wagnerian mysticism, but it tightens the stiff upper lip- and makes me (for one) proud of Britain's contribution to the modern world.
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Although not the best film of 1933, certainly not an unworthy Best Picture winner
zetes24 July 2002
A sloppy but beautiful British family saga chronicling the lives of two families, the Marryots and the Bridges, the former upper class and the latter their servants, from the end of the 19th Century up to 1933. A few major events are portrayed. At the beginning of the film, the patriarchs of the two families go off to fight the Boer War. Much later on in the film we experience WWI, and in between we see the Titanic sink. The film is filled to the brink with good characters, all of them being portrayed by very good actors, as well. There are a few very bad scenes, most notably the one on the Titanic (I know it was an important event in this time period, but it's handled very poorly and predictably in the screenplay). The final speech, a necessary element in every film of this sub-genre, is particularly bad, too. The film ends during a worldwide depression, and there is a half-attempt to provide the audience with hope. Unfortunately, there is none to be found. I would have hated to be an audience member at this film in 1933! The many good scenes do far outweigh the bad ones, though. There are a couple that are really masterful. The very long montage that paints a portrait of WWI is gorgeously done, and appropriately harrowing. The scene in which the matriarch of the Marryot family watches her youngest son go off to war is exquisite. After he leaves, she attempts to light a cigarette. At that moment, a young nurse and a wounded man in a stretcher pass by; the nurse lights a cigarette for the wounded man. The match goes out between the matriarch's fingers as she stares at them. This very economical scene expresses both the cold fear she has for her son and the ways in which the boundaries between the classes were fading. The theme of class in Cavalcade is important, although I wish it had been developed further. Early in the film, the Bridges family moves away and amasses something of a fortune of their own. As history marches on, we do see the class lines falter a bit. Cavalcade may actually have been an influence on none other than Jean Renoir, at least in The Grand Illusion. That film also deals with the melding of the classes as a result of wars. There is one scene in Cavalcade that is simply too close to one in The Grand Illusion to be a coincidence. A theater show is interrupted to announce that the Boer War is over and that the troops are coming back. Together, the audience members stand up and begin singing. It looks very much like the scene where the P.O.W.s sing "The Marseilles" in The Grand Illusion. 8/10.
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An odd bird of a film
calvinnme12 June 2010
I enjoyed this film, not so much as a piece of entertainment that still holds up today, but as a moment frozen both in time and geography. Unlike "42nd Street" and "Dinner at Eight" which are other films from 1933 that I think most Americans would find very accessible today, you might not care for Cavalcade if you don't know what to look for.

This film is totally British in its perspective and it is also very much in the anti-war spirit that pervaded movies between 1925 and 1935 as WWI came to be seen by nearly all its global participants as a pointless war and caused everyone to lose their taste for fighting another.

The British perspective that you have to realize is that the Marryotts are accustomed to being on top - both in the world as England had dominated the globe for centuries, and socially, as they were part of the aristocracy. That didn't mean that they were snobs - they were very friendly and compassionate with their servants. But the point is, they were accustomed to the relationship being their choice and under their control. Suddenly England appears to be on the decline on the world stage and the servants they were so kind to are coming up in the world on their own and don't need their permission to enter society. Downstairs is coming upstairs, like it or not.

Downstairs is personified in this film by the Bridges family, Marryot servants that eventually strike out on their own and into business. Eventually the daughter, Fanny, enters into a romance with the Marryot's younger son. When Mrs. Marryot learns the news she is not so shocked as she is resigned to the fact that this is another sign that her world is slipping away. As for Fanny Bridges, she seems to personify post-war decadence as she grows from a child to full womanhood in the roaring 20's. At one point in the film, as a child, she literally dances on the grave of a loved one. This is not a good sign of things to come.

If the movie has a major flaw it is that it goes rather slowly through the years 1900 through 1918 and flies through the last fifteen years. Through a well-done montage you get a taste for what British life was like during that time - in many cases it looks like it was going through the same growing pains as American society during that same period - but it's only a taste.

Overall I'd recommend it, but just realize that it is quite different in style from American films from that same year.
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Excellent story of a British family through the War and beyond
MartinHafer12 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a wonderful slice of life film about one family as they cope with the 20th century and all its upheaval. While the film came out long before WWII, it does focus a lot on the destruction and loss of WWI, as many of the characters you come to care about through the course of the film are killed. And, through it all, the survivors keep a stiff upper lip like a good Brit! The film features excellent acting, writing and action. All around, it is a top-quality film. However, while an excellent film and one that will tug at your heart, it is NOT as high a quality film as you would expect for the BEST PICTURE award it received. Excellent and worth seeing--absolutely. Oscar worthy--not really.
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This Blessed Isle
bkoganbing26 June 2007
I suppose you don't have to be an Anglophile to like Cavalcade, but it certainly helps.

The film it seems to be most like to me is Giant. Just as the Edna Ferber based film is some 25 years of the second quarter of the last century as seen through the eyes of the Texas Benedict family, Cavalcade is a British social history through the Marryots, Robert and Jane played by Clive Brook and Diana Wynyard. Though the Benedicts have their problems, they don't go through near the tragedies that the Marryots do.

Cavalcade was presented on the London stage a few years earlier and it never made it to Broadway unlike most of Noel Coward's works. It was an expensive production with revolving kaleidoscope like sets that probably made American producers on Broadway shy away from it.

A lot of standard English Music Hall numbers were used instead of Coward writing an original score. He did contribute one number however, 20th Century Blues which was a whole commentary unto itself of the roaring twenties.

Although at that point in time our history in the USA certainly does connect with the United Kingdom's during World War I for the most part Cavalcade deals strictly with British subject matter. I'm afraid unless one is a fan of Noel Coward or is familiar with 20th Century British history, it's hard for today's audience to appreciate Cavalcade.

Cavalcade however was the Best Picture of 1933 and Frank Lloyd won for Best Director. He'd win another Oscar for Best Director on another, but far different British subject in Mutiny on the Bounty. Diana Wynyard was nominated for Best Actress, but lost to Katherine Hepburn for Morning Glory.

Two other good performances are Una O'Connor and Herbert Mundin as Mrs. and Mr. Bridges. They are the downstairs in service couple to the upstairs Marryots. Both play far different parts than what we normally see of them. Most film fans remember Herbert Mundin as the meek mess man from Mutiny on the Bounty and Much the Miller from The Adventures of Robin Hood where he's paired with Una O'Connor. He's quite different here.

Cavalcade is good, but terribly dated. Still it should be seen and evaluated as a commentary of how the British saw themselves at the beginning of the Great Depression.
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"Time changes many things"
Steffi_P12 June 2011
Unlike the big Oscar winners of later decades, the Best Pictures of the 1930s have largely been neglected (the only notable exceptions being It Happened One Night and Gone with the Wind). Of them all, Cavalcade is perhaps the most rarely remembered, and if remembered at all frequently dismissed as a dated, stagy melodrama, a product of an embarrassing era in cinema's history that even film buffs tend to shy away from, without even the added attraction of some pre-code naughtiness. But are bare legs, innuendo and mean-faced gangsters the only things worth salvaging from this era? The accusations of staginess are not surprising, Cavalcade being adapted from a Noel Coward play. But while Coward may have been a bit of a theatre snob with a naively upper-class attitude, he is not as impenetrably British as he may appear at first glance. Although Cavalcade focuses ostensibly on the concerns of a typical well-to-do English family, Coward strings together his story from universally emotional events, many of which would have related to the lives of people all over the world, and most of which still bear a kick today. Granted, Cavalcade's social conservatism and stiff-upper-lipped fustiness can be a little alienating, but this is not a preachy movie and nothing is forced home or laid on too thickly. Besides, Coward's warm humanism pervades even the most clichéd of characters.

The director is Frank Lloyd, himself an unfairly forgotten man of old Hollywood. Many will not understand why Lloyd one an Oscar for his work on Cavalcade, because he does not use any overt camera tricks, but the truth is Lloyd is too much of a master to need any tricks. Many of the claims of stiltedness probably stem from the fact that Lloyd uses a lot of long and often static takes, but there is still subtle and clever technique at work here. Take that first scene of Diana Wynyard and Clive Brook making their preparations for New Years Eve. A large chunk is done without a single edit, yet with a few simple panning manoeuvres Lloyd's camera is smoothly changing the focus and keeping things feeling fresh, at one point having Brook's face appear in the mirror, then following her over to the table where the two of them stand with a garland of flowers framing the lower edge of the shot. Another director might have used a dozen cuts in the same scene, but Lloyd does it with just one or two. And the great thing is you don't notice. Often he will shift our attention from one place to another, but do it by having the camera follow a walking character to disguise the movement, such as the father carrying off a crying child on the beach. In spite of this unostentatious approach, the style is purely cinematic.

To be fair however, most of the accusations of theatricality fall upon the cast. I would however describe the performances here as being stereotyped rather than grandiosely hammy. Diana Wynyard was the only Oscar nominee for acting, although she does little here but emote rather wetly. In her favour she does put a lot of expression into her small gestures, and as the picture progresses she ages her character convincingly. More realistic turns however are given by Clive Brook and Irene Browne. The real surprise performance of the lot though is Herbert Mundin. In his many supporting roles Mundin typically played a bumbling yet lovable comedy character, but here he is forceful, passionate and rather moving. Had such a thing existed in 1933, he could have been in line for a Best Supporting Actor award.

But, aside from all these qualities, why did Cavalcade of all things appeal to the Academy, which was not exactly cosmopolitan in those days? The answer may be that the mood of the picture was very apt for the times. This was of course the height of the depression, and despite appearances Cavalcade is a rather downbeat affair. The gung ho optimism of the Boer war is replaced by the bitter folly of the World War; characters disappear from the narrative, everyday life becomes increasingly impersonal, until the final scenes are almost despairing. And yet this is not some tale of personal tragedy. Crowds are a constant presence in Cavalcade, with Lloyd using them as a backdrop to a teary farewell, the bookends to a scene or even just a noise heard through a window. In Coward's play characters are killed off in significant events making them symbolic of the losses of a nation. This is a story of great suffering, but it is a story of collective suffering, and this makes it comparable to the most poignant and affecting pictures of depression-era Hollywood.
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See this film now, as we enter a new century.
David-24018 June 1999
This is an extraordinary film, from a play by Noel Coward. Starting on New Years Eve in 1899, the film goes on an emotional ride through 33 years of British history - ending on New Years Eve 1932. Through the lives of the members of one household (and two families one upper class, the other their servants)we visit the Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the Titanic, World War One and the Jazz Age. The film ends with the hope of a more peaceful world - a hope saddened by our knowledge that 1933 was to be the year that Hitler came to power.

This is very much an anti-war film, with the World War One scenes very powerful and the sad loss of a mother portrayed vividly as a woman learns of the death of her son as the rest of the world celebrates the end of the war. You won't forget this image.

Sumptuously shot and beautifully directed, the film is best when it is visual as it does suffer some of the sound problems associated with early talkies - and some of the acting is a little melodramatic. Diana Wynard's performance alternates between magnificent and hammy constantly - suggesting she was a little uncertain how to act for the camera. And look out quickly for an early portrayal of a gay male couple (snuck in by Coward I suspect!).

But this film is astonishingly relevant to us as we move into a new century. Let's not repeat the mistakes of the last. Coward speaks to us strongly from the grave.
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Remember Cavalcade?
xerses136 November 2005
That was a chapter heading in a book on the making of KING KONG. KING KONG which received no Oscar nominations and this one (1) won BEST PICTURE. That is why we were very interested in seeing it and were not disappointed. No need to go over the films short comings which some other reviewers have done. Though we don't see how being shot in B&W is relevant since that was the prevailing technology of the time.

The importance of the film is how the post (WWI) war generation viewed themselves and the tragedies, personal and international that transformed their world. The two (2) most powerful being the brief Titanic sequence and the montage of WWI where young men in an unending stream march into a Dante's Inferno never to return from that circle of hell. How the confidence of the Victorian/Edwardian age was shattered and their Empires were swept away or Gone With The Wind.

Film has clearly had it's influence and the most pronounced was in the SUPERIOR Jean Marsh television series UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS. If you cannot feel empathy for the characters of CAVALCADE you will in this. Do yourself a favor and watch CAVALCADE first. Watching both might get some people to, dare I say it, even read a book about that time period and realize that the current time does not have a monopoly upon conflict and pain.

One final comment KING KONG should of WON.
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Wonderful film - and a good companion piece to This Happy Breed
gort-812 February 2010
This is a letter perfect film taking in the sweep of time from 1900-1933 for a British upper-class family (the Marryots) and a family that serves them (the Bridges).

If you enjoyed Cavalcade you might want to see the 1944 film, This Happy Breed. I think of the two as companion pieces.

Cavalcade looked took an Upstairs-Downstairs approach, showing families at either end of the economic and class scale, from 1900-1933. This Happy Breed focuses on the Gibbons, a middle-class family, beginning with the end of the Great War to the start of World War II. It was the second film directed by David Lean.

The movies common ancestor is Noel Coward. Both films adapted from plays written by him.
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Dated family saga of the early 20th century
nnnn4508919113 May 2007
In a year that produced enduring classics like "King Kong,Dinner at Eight,Queen Christina and 42nd Street",just to mention a few examples of this amazing crop of films,"Cavalcade" managed to be awarded with the Oscar for best picture.This dated and quite boring movie didn't deserve such an honor.Based on the play by Noel Coward about two British families (one aristocratic and one of working-class stock)the movie traces their lives through the three first decades of the 20th century.With the possibilities that the story gave of making a grand epic saga,the film makers opted for more or less to reproduce the play as filmed theater only with montages of those world shattering events of the early 20th century.This almost killed the movie for me.The acting is not especially noteworthy except for the performance of Herbert Mundin.The movie is quite interesting in it's depiction of the old Edwardian society trying to adjust to the upheavals of the times and not quite managing it. Although I found it hard to sit through the movie isn't quite a waste of time because of its historical significance.
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Total hackneyed tedium
mnpollio15 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Total dreck and arguably the worst film to walk off with a Best Picture Oscar. This still-born chronicle of British life as experienced through the eyes of the wealthy Marryot family and their servants, The Bridges, spanning from 1899 through 1933 is instantly forgettable and tiresome, and leaves nary a cliché unplumbed. It plays like a Cliff Notes version of Upstairs Downstairs with none of the depth, sophistication, insight or wit from that later series. The screenplay, inexplicably with Noel Coward as one of the writers, is more concerned with integrating events from the time period into the mix than fleshing out the people with whom the viewer should ostensibly identify, with most of the events flying past at such a speed that it is nearly impossible to have much of a reaction to them. When family members are lost, it is difficult to much care as we have barely been introduced to them before they are sacrificed for "the cause". Most of the scenes are stagy moments that seem lifted directly from a play to film brimming over with stilted dialogue and wooden performances. As the heads of the elegant Marryot family, Diana Wynyard and, especially, Clive Brook, are the quintessential caricatures of the stiff-upper-lip British couple, who feel that no sacrifice is too great for the Empire. The final moments when they look back at the loss of their entire family and decide that it was all worth it so long at Merry Old England can carry on into the future is surely one of the most laughably delivered and flat conclusions of any acclaimed film.
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Thirty-four years in the life of a British upper class family
blanche-217 June 2011
The Marryot family is the focus of Noel Coward's antiwar film, "Cavalcade," made in 1933 and starring Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O'Connor, and Margaret Lindsay.

This is an upstairs-downstairs look at the effects of war, and war's effects on society as we see what happens to the Bridges family, the servants, and the Marryots, during the years 1899-1933 in Great Britain. Not in any way snobbish, the Marryots in fact have a very close relationship with their servants. But class is class, and the class system declines to the point where the daughter (Ursula Jeans) of Ellen and Alfred Bridges (O'Connor and Herbert Mundin) becomes involved with her childhood playmate, Joe Marryot (Frank Lawton), a sign that the world the Marryots knew is fading away. All three Marryot men are involved in the Boer War, and two fight in World War I, to the distress of Jane Marryot (Wynyard), who is the representative of the antiwar sentiment.

There are other world events that touch the family as well: the death of Queen Victoria, and the sinking of the Titanic.

The film is a bit on the slow side and spends more time on the early period than the later. Coward, however, with shots of men blinded in the Great War, young men being shot, etc., makes his point very well.

My big quibble with this film is that it goes for 34 years. At the beginning, the Marryots have young children. Even if the Mr. and Mrs. Marryot were 30 years old at the beginning of the film -- why at the end of the movie did they look and act 90? It was hilarious as they're probably in their sixties. It goes to show how the concept of age has really changed.

This film is okay but somehow not as involving or as good as David Lean's This Happy Breed which concerns a middle-class family post World War I to World War II - also written by Noel Coward. I think This Happy Breed has a better cast; some of the acting in Cavalcade is a little stiff. Still, there are some striking scenes.
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Obviously, sentimentality and lifelessness do not mix
mikegordan4 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
For those of you keeping up with my retrospective on all the Best Picture winners up to now, you will know these writers, directors and actors were still not accustomed to the transition to talkies, but they were slowly getting the hang of it. And on top of it all, they were even taking advantage of the visual medium. The sets, the ability to shoot on location, the cinematography, the lighting, and down the road, the color of the film itself all helped contribute all kinds of creative ways for these filmmakers to either make the impossible possible, or reliving the past. King Kong, a film that came out in 1933, is one of those films that accomplished this task and so much more.

But unfortunately, we're not reviewing King Kong today because it didn't win Best Picture. It wasn't even nominated. What won instead, unfortunately, was a film that made no attempt at all to take advantage of what film as a medium has to offer; Cavalcade. Yeah, they adapted one of the drollest of plays into a feature film, and people actually loved it.

What's the story? It's the life of an English couple from the New Years Eve of 1899 up until then-present day 1933 as they experience historical events include the Second Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic, and World War I among many other things. And within the now-reasonably short running time of 110 minutes, then that means the film's going to be either exciting or rushed. This film is anything but exciting; it's dull as a rock. There is absolutely no soul in this picture at all.

And the picture is indeed rushed. These events are just glanced over for no good reason other than to show that they lived through them, and they never seem to show how much they impacted them or the world around them. There's nothing interesting about these characters or this story whatsoever. And what's worse is that these events don't seem to impact the viewer in any way because those scenes are executed in a manner identical to those of a play; you never see these events happen. Come, on! We already had 2 War films win Best Picture in the past; where's the budget? Where are the calamities? For a sentimental film, this film sure does feel devoid of any real emotions.

And that's why I call this film dull and soulless; there's no logic or reason, no critical thinking, not even pure sentimental hogwash. At least all the previous nominees had a semblance of a soul; this film doesn't. This film is completely static and unmoving to say the least. The acting is boring, the characters are boring, and the story is boring. There is nothing positive to say outside of the fact that the premise had promise. More extravagance (to help these events leave a bigger impact), about 20 or 30 more minutes added to the running time, and more interesting characters. That is all that is needed to make this film any good. So while the film is pretty bad, it is salvageable. I would just skip it if I were you. 2.5 out of 10 rounded up to 3 out of 10.
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One thing after another.
rmax3048239 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those sweeping intergenerational stories of an upper-middle-class British families in which the children grow up over the course of thirty or so years, with the older and the younger generations each encountering triumph and tragedy. There's a bit of class conflict thrown in when the daughter of the kitchen maid becomes a successful and wealthy singer and the upper-echelon son of the ruling family fall in love with each other. There are some musical interludes, none of the songs written by the author of the play from which this film derives.

That author was Noel Coward. Coward was great in some of his movie appearances, which ranged from the heroic ("In This We Serve") through the comic ("Our Man in Havana") to the somewhat bizarre and slightly menacing ("Bunny Lake Is Missing"). I quite like the guy.

Yet this story seems pointless to me in many ways. A lot of these epic movies about subsequent generations and their adaptation to social change do. I know Noel Coward's work is esteemed, and I know we should all keep a stiff upper lip and hope for the best, but as one New Year celebration follows another, the message gets tiresome. Really, I was saddened by some of the turns taken by events, but didn't much give a damn what happened to any of the characters, all of whom struck me as animated messages rather than living people.

What tragedy. Let me see. In the beginning there is the Boer War. The death of the Old Queen. Then two characters from the household discover they love one another -- on the Titanic. Then there is World War I. That's followed by the Jazz Age with all its threats, and what noisome threats to social stability they are -- drinking is flagrantly shown on the screen, along with homosexuality (that's a laugh, coming from Noel Coward), the threat of yet another war, art moderne, smoking cigarettes (well, we've gotten rid of that filthy nuisance), blues singers, and long fluffy feathers.

At the end, the original father and the original mother, now old and a little bent, toast each other delicately. They turn and look solemnly into the camera and the mother pronounces a long toast to both the past and the future while the viewer pendiculates. Then, arm in arm, the stroll to the balcony and smile at the New Year celebration in the streets below.

I suppose this sort of thing appeals to a good many people. There seems no avoiding these stories. If there IS a way of slipping past them, would someone let me know?
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The Worst Film Ever to Win a Best Picture Oscar
jonchopwood27 February 2005
Critics around Oscar time are fond of tagging Cecil B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952) with the title "Worst Film Ever to Win a Best Picture Oscar," but they are wrong. Such a declaration reveals that their knowledge of motion pictures is limited. "Greatest Show" actually is an entertaining picture; one cannot say the same for such early Oscar winners as "Cimarron" and "Calvacade." While "Cimarron" at least has some value as a spectacle due to its depiction of the Oklahoma Land Rush, "Calvacade" has no such redeeming virtues.

This is simply, the worst film ever to win a Best Picture Oscar. It is incredibly boring and primitively made. It is the epitome of the type of film that gives the early talkies such a bad name. The film should have been called "Calcified" rather than "Calvacade." The photography stinks, the acting is wooden, and the story is so hackneyed that it would cause even the most devoted "Masterpiece Theater" fan to contemplate suicide.

What is it about boring, stilted English films about the upper middle class or the aristocracy that gives Hollywood hot rocks? Anthony Holden, in his book "Behind the Oscar" (1993) quotes one wag as saying "If there is anything that moves the ordinary American to uncontrollable tears, it is the plight -- the constant plight -- of dear old England." This is just rubbish, and badly made rubbish at that! One out of ten stars.
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Our Island Story
writers_reign12 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
One definition of genius is to create something so imperceptibly that people think it either evolved naturally or had always been there; the safety pin is a case in point. Noel Coward was a genius anyway but in 1930 he wrote a play, Cavalcade, in which the first decades of the twentieth century were refracted through the eyes of two families in London, one upper class, one lower, who go through lives punctuated by births, marriages, and deaths against a backdrop of major events. It was a brilliant concept and Coward liked it so much he did it again nine years later in This Happy Breed, but more than this, others jumped on the bandwagon not least Upstairs, Downstairs, which even borrowed Coward's coup de theatre of having a honeymoon couple deliriously happy, talking and planning in front of a ship's lifebelt and moving away to disclose the name of the ship: Titanic, and later still Downton Abbey, like the man said there's nothing new under the sun. To watch a film shot in 1933 in 2017 is to expect the worst but Coward's superb craftsmanship holds up remarkably well, he was a super patriot and he wears his patriotism proudly. It reeks with the kind of chauvinistic sentiment that writers today are either ashamed to display or no longer feel having lost an empire. Three cheers for Coward.
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Beautifully acted reminder of why we must end governments and war
morrisonhimself30 October 2016
Superior performers create a believable picture of Britain from New Years Eve 1999 to the post-Great War period -- that is, the years just after World War I.

Between the make-up and the marvelous acting, several characters age before our eyes. Several others don't because -- and this is not a spoiler, I hope -- Death intervenes.

In some ways, this Noel Coward creation reminded me of "Downton Abbey," with its story of Britain and the societal changes brought about by World War I.

"Cavalcade" is somewhat spoiled by an over- and bad use of montages, hokey under the best of circumstances, but not even well done here. And that's a shame considering the otherwise excellent production values.

Una O'Connor gets one of her best parts and gives one of her very best performances. She was such a good actress and was too often relegated to minor maid or servant roles.

Perhaps only the lovely Bonita Granville is known, or widely known, to audiences today. She was very young here, but, at least to me, one of her most worshipful fans, she was instantly recognizable.

"Cavalcade" was available On Demand from FXM, and I recommend it for two reasons: 1) its message -- however unintended -- that we must break the chains that bind us to governments and politicians, and especially the warmongering politicians, and 2) the unsurpassed British acting.
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Horrible. Almost nothing of redeeming value here.
keenigan24 October 2001
I've seen all but five Academy Award Best Picture winners, and Cavalcade is by far the worst. The acting is forced and broad, the music is annoying, the dialogue is almost wholly expository, the pacing is uneven, the characters are nothing but class stereotypes, and the plot is soap-operatic at best. I was rolling my eyes or groaning at how stupid and amateurish this movie is. I have seen high school plays that are more professional.

The fact that the film is from 1933 is not important. Just look at Grand Hotel, Best Picture winner from 1932, to see that this era of film can produce greatness. It is not the technical problems associated with the era that kill the film. It is a lack of style or anything redeeming to make me care about the film.

1/5 stars
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CAVALCADE (Frank Lloyd, 1933) ***
Bunuel19767 March 2009
This – one of the rarest Best Picture Oscar winners to get hold of (in fact, I had to make do with a copy culled from Spanish TV with forced subtitles in that language!) – is yet more evidence that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was still finding its feet in those early years and pretty much clueless as to which movies would stand the test of time! It is hard to believe now that this film managed to triumph over 42ND STREET, I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG and THE SIGN OF THE CROSS…not to mention THE INVISIBLE MAN, KING KONG and QUEEN Christina, which were completely bypassed for Oscar consideration! For the record, according to the "Combustible Celluloid" website, CAVALCADE was named by Luis Bunuel as one of his favorite films and, while the Leonard Maltin Film Guide awards it full marks, Leslie Halliwell is more moderate in his appraisal – with which I found myself agreeing in the long run, given its stodgy overall quality (the title, by the way, is a repeated visual motif referring to the inexorable passage of time). In fact, inspired by an elaborate staging of the Noel Coward play, this epic production is basically the granddaddy of all those films of much more recent vintage – say, ZELIG (1983) and FORREST GUMP (1994) in which world events are seen through the eyes of one source – in this case, instead of an innocent bystander, we have the members (both upper and working-class) of a British household. The historical events depicted, then, incorporate the Boer War, the funeral of Queen Victoria (marking the death of an era in itself), the sinking of the Titanic, World War I (via montages supervised by the renowned and multi-talented William Cameron Menzies), and the Jazz Age up until then-contemporary times (with, however, another all-encompassing war already looming). Incidentally, though made in Hollywood, most of the cast is authentically British – which, however, means that the acting alternates between stiff-upper-lipped types and earthy caricatures (resulting in rampant melodrama, crude attempts at humor and the inevitable bland romantic interest)! Having said that, what the film has going for it is a strong prestige value that keeps the disparate parts hanging together and the interest going throughout; in short, while CAVALCADE still impresses somewhat, it has inevitably dated. Director Lloyd, too, has been pretty much forgotten over the years: though he won an Oscar for his work here, following a previous win in 1928/29 for the supposedly lost(!) THE DIVINE LADY, his most (perhaps sole) enduring effort is the original version of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935) – which was also named Best Picture but, though nominated once more, Lloyd failed to make it a hat-trick (which, ironically, Frank Capra managed in the space of just 5 years: there is a famous story about how the man presenting the Best Direction Oscar for 1933 announced the recipient by simply saying, "Come and get it Frank", so that Capra rose from his seat to pick up his award for LADY FOR A DAY when the winner was really Frank Lloyd for the film under review!).
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A New Year's Eve film. One of kind?
CubsandCulture14 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This film is framed by New Year's Eve 1899 to New Year's Day 1933. In the intervening 33 years you see how great moments of British history-Death of Victoria, sinking of Titanic, WWI etc.-impact two families, one upstairs and one downstairs. But the film is plotless and meandering. For example, a doomed love affair is reduced down to 3 scenes, one of which is setting up how the couple will die during the sinking of the Titanic. Likewise, story threads come and go, dropped at a moment's notice never to be mentioned again. This should all be frustrating as drama but it isn't. It adds up to a slice of life film that is about our relationship to the passage of time. (it reminds me Boyhood, of all films!) This is re-enforced with the use of the medieval cavalcade to indicate the march of history. As a piece of writing this is a deeply unconventional film in structure but that unconventionality is put to service of some deeply conservative themes. It's the deep traditions that this film celebrates, especially God and Country. Note how the troubled times sequence is focused on *gasp* atheists!

Visually this film is breathtaking. Lloyd had a keen eye for composition and the visual grandeur of the film really helps with its epic scope and feel. I especially was impressed with the Zeppelin attack sequence and the WWI montage. I don't think I have seen the "meat grinder" of war portrayed like that before.

The acting is uniformly excellent. That really helps with the lacking of narrative drive. And I think the actors made their characters feel alive with minimum screen time. This is a weird film but there is one thing it is perfect at. It really captures the melancholy, nostalgia and bittersweet of New Year's Eve. For old time's sake , go see this!
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Dated Soap: Cavalcade
arthur_tafero19 August 2018
This is not a bad film; it has it's moments. I liked Joey (the alter ego of Noel Coward in the film; one writer always recognizes another writer's alter ego), and I liked Fanny Brice (I mean Bridges). This is a good anti-war film. It is also an anti-religious film (note the sparse crowd in the church after the war). Coward is trying to tell us that none of these institutions have the answer. Wars and history repeats itself; eating families, loves, husbands, wives, children and anything else that gets in its way. Mankind is obviously too stupid to learn from history. This is one of Coward's messages. For 1933, King Kong was a far more entertaining film, with far more compelling scenes and direction. Dinner at Eight was also much better than this soap; albeit good soap. For ladies only; and old ladies at that.
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Diorama of English History of the Early 20th Century
evanston_dad11 November 2017
When it came to handing out its top prize in its first years of existence, the Academy really had a thing for historical retrospectives. I happened to watch "Cimarron" and "Cavalcade" back to back in an effort to finally see the handful of Best Picture winners that had slipped past me, and both are historical pageants, one American, the other British, chronicling the first three decades of the twentieth century.

"Cavalcade" begins with the outbreak of the Boer War, and takes its audience right up to the year of its release (1933), following a host of famous historical moments in between -- the sinking of the Titanic, WWI -- as experienced by a well-off English family and its servants. It ends on a rather bleak and uncertain note, with the blurring of class boundaries and the rise of mechanization -- and its possibilities for human destruction -- leaving the English couple at the film's center feeling anxious about the future. Like many of the films to be recognized by the Academy in the early years of sound, it's creakier and much less cinematic than any number of much better films in any given year that were completely or almost ignored, but Oscar has a long legacy of passing over the truly worthy for the mediocre, so it doesn't much surprise me that "Cavalcade" won the Best Picture Oscar over far better nominees like "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" and "42nd Street."

Frank Lloyd won the Best Director Oscar for the second time for his efforts on this film, and the many sets needed to give the film its historical sweep won William Darling the award for Best Art Direction. Its only other nomination was for Diana Wynyard as the family matriarch, not a performance that was particularly deserving. She performs the role as if she's on stage, understandable given that the material originated as a play, but still...plenty of other actresses at the time (Barbara Stanwyck, Norma Shearer, Jean Harlow) knew how to give performances on film that were unique to the medium.

Grade: B
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